We are here for a while, we busy ourselves, we accomplish things, and then we move on — and others continue the cycle. “We can’t all, and some of us don’t.”

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What if the face you showed the world turned out to be a mask… with nothing beneath it?”       ― Jodi Picoult, Nineteen Minutes    

http://www.goodreads.com/work/quotes/3375915-nineteen-minutes
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http://www.patheos.com/blogs/peterenns/2015/04/discovering-the-futility-of-human-existence-at-my-high-school-reunion/#ixzz3YGIJHHDx
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http://theutopianlife.com/2014/11/22/eeyore-pessimists-guide-beautiful-life/
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Whatever is has already been, and what will be has been before.

Ecclesiastes 3:15

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http://biblehub.com/ecclesiastes/3-15.htm
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Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary
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3:11-15 Every thing is as God made it; not as it appears to us. We have the world so much in our hearts,

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we are so taken up with thoughts and cares of worldly things, that we have neither time nor spirit to see God’s hand in them.

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Our purpose is to love others (as God first loves us).

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Ecclesiastes 3:15

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Is there anything of which one can say,
  

            “Look! This is something new”?


It was here already, long ago;

             it was here before our time.

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This realization often comes much later, in mid-life, when the frantic pace of our youth has become tiresome, when we finally slow down a bit and take stock.

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I’m just another in a long line. I’m not at the front or back. Just in the massive middle. So are you.

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So is everyone.

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We are here for a while, we busy ourselves, we accomplish things, and then we move on — and others continue the cycle.

I also, strangely, felt peace at this thought. I wasn’t exactly sure at the time why, but perhaps knowing that things are as they are and that I will not break this cycle  —-

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leads to a healthy resignation, a release of the fantasy that we control our universe, our lives.

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This is how I put it: my epiphany was a tender “letting go” moment.

I have found that letting go is a key component of the Christian life—of any spiritual life—but I was never taught “letting go” in my Christian education, in church, college, or seminary. The sub-current always seemed to be how “special” and privileged we were not to be part of this endless cycle of life.

I was taught to think of myself as outside of the circle.

But we live our lives within this circle, and our lives do have meaning. Not a meaning handed to us, but a meaning we forge—right here, right now — by choice. Not by denying our humanity but by looking it square in the eye, shedding any notion of being above it all  — and choosing to walk or not — in spiritual salvation with our Lord Jesus.

After all, as Christians believe, God himself entered the human drama, the cycle of life, as yet another man in the long line of men before and since, born of a woman, in ancient Judea, in Galilee, who grew and learned like everyone else.

God valued the cycle enough to be a part of it.   So will I.   I so choose to walk in spiritual salvation with my Lord Jesus.

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http://www.patheos.com/blogs/peterenns/2015/06/a-faith-crisis-in-the-bible-and-dont-let-some-60s-hippies-tell-you-otherwise/
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Confession of resignation in Ecclesiastes:   The best we can do is to find joy (in God) in everyday life.

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In Ecclesiastes we find we hear our voices of sadness, depression anxiety, strife, and doubt echoing back from 2,500 years ago.   Life is not so grand, but we are not alone in feeling such.

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http://www.reviewjournal.com/columns-blogs/steven-kalas/it-ll-take-more-bubble-bath-cure-your-stress

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Four fundamental sources of stress    —

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1.   MEANINGLESSNESS

Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung said that the crisis of Western civilization was a crisis of meaning. As the great “symbol systems” of our past erode (e.g., the American flag, wedding rings, clear gender symbols, Judeo-Christian symbols), we are left more and more with a culture void of symbolic identity. Our understanding of relationship and intimacy is no longer grounded in depth communion expressed by shared symbols but in the facade of “connectedness” (see Facebook, etc.). Our work is less and less grounded in the symbol of vocation and more and more grounded in “occupation.” That is, something that occupies our time and makes money.

More and more patients enter therapy not to resolve unhappy childhood memories, not to change some unhealthy habit, but to try to express that vague, nagging, painful emptiness of a soul looking for meaning.

Meaninglessness is very stressful.

2.    DENIED EMOTIONS

Imagine standing waste deep in a swimming pool, holding a volleyball. Now, push the ball underwater with one hand. Hold it there, underwater. Give it a minute. As your arm tires, you will notice the ball’s desire to surface. It wants to surface. Demands to surface! Your arm will start to tremble. You have to concentrate. Perhaps a grunt will escape your lips as you bring to bear the effort to keep that ball underwater.

This is what it’s like to deny your emotions. To do anything but feel. Anger, fear, vulnerability, shame, guilt, grief, loss, despair — our culture raises you to deny suffering at all cost.

Undigested, unrecognized, denied emotions are very stressful.

3.     DISRESPECT/CONTEMPT

If a tree is planted in a poison forest, it will fail to thrive. If you rescue the tree by digging it up, repotting it in healthy soil, feed and water it, then the tree will begin to recover and grow. But, once restored to health, if you return it to the poison forest … well, there aren’t enough bubble baths in the world to make living in that forest OK.

This is what it’s like for so many patients. I help them. They begin to thrive and heal in therapy. But, if they must then return to a poison marriage … or return to poison parents … or return to a poison workplace and a poison supervisor … well, relaxation techniques will not ultimately be enough to save them.

Participating in relationships marked by chronic disrespect/contempt is very stressful.

4.     THE DOUBLE BIND

In the 1950s, Gregory Bateson struck upon the idea of the double bind: “A psychological impasse created when a person perceives that someone in a position of power is making contradictory demands, so that no response is appropriate.”

Bateson says the victim of double bind receives contradictory injunctions or emotional messages on different levels of communication (for example, love is expressed by words, and hate or detachment by nonverbal behavior; or a child is encouraged to speak freely, but criticized or silenced whenever he or she actually does so).

No meta-communication is possible — for example, asking which of the two messages is valid or describing the communication as making no sense.

The victim cannot leave the communication field.

Failing to fulfill the contradictory injunctions is punished (for example, by withdrawal of love).

The double bind is often one of the poisons in the poison forest. It is a common strategy (albeit, often unconscious) of folks treating us with chronic disrespect/contempt. It can make you feel like you are losing your mind.

Sure, take time for yourself. That’s a good thing. But, if any of these four stressful dynamics haunt your life, you will have to do something about it.

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Eeyore: A Pessimist’s Guide to a Beautiful Life

Image Credit: cultjer.com

I’m a recovering pessimist. A perennial one. I know it’s a striking confession given the nature of my site. But in a paradoxical way, pessimism’s been great fuel for personal growth. Pitiful dwellings on life’s miseries launch me into striving for the best possible world.

Perhaps the greatest of pessimists: Eeyore. The thistle eating donkey from A. A. Milne’s Winnie the Pooh.

There’s something poignantly oxymoronic about Eeyore—that such laughter and joy can come from a gloomy character.

In the same way being poor teaches us to appreciate wealth, having our hearts broken teaches us to love faithfully, and failures magnifying our victories—Eeyore’s melancholy in a subtle way highlights the joys in life.

Here are 7 classic lines and lessons for a beautiful life from Eeyore:

 

1. “Thanks for noticing me.”

It’s what we all want. Beyond our physical needs, the existential cry for acknowledgment underlies everything we do.

To be noticed, to be love, to be validated.

One of Eeyore’s favorite lines highlights the power in simply acknowledging someone’s presence. Appreciating the uniqueness of their character, the serendipity that allows friends to share the same space and time. Every relationship is made up of chance occurrences which deserve some marveling.

And when silence is no longer awkward in any relationship—it’s a beautiful experience of ‘noticing’ one another that should be celebrated.

 

2. “It’s snowing still,” said Eeyore gloomily.

“So it is.”

“And freezing.”

“Is it?”

“Yes,” said Eeyore. “However,” he said, brightening up a little, “we haven’t had an earthquake lately.”

We’ve all blown things out of proportion before. Our problems will expand to fill the mental space we give it, and often, we give far too much.

Psychologists call it Catastrophic Thinking, defaulting to worst case scenarios—we think getting pulled over means a night in jail. Fear is a powerful mechanism, and if untamed, it knows no boundaries.

Eeyore knows the key—the word “However” causes a mental reappraisal, a mindfulness that allows for a more rational evaluation. And actually, thinking the worst case scenario, allows us to realize how unjustified and unrealistic we’re being.

 

3. “A tail isn’t a tail to them, it’s just a little bit extra at the back.”

Not everyone will understand you, and that’s ok. We celebrate freedom of speech, but often get bent out of shape when someone expresses an opposing view.

Just like you can take a horse to water but not make it drink, there’s no point going blue in the face telling someone it’s a tail if all they see is “extra at the back.”

 

4. “To the uneducated an A is just three sticks.”

Ignorance is bliss—for those who are ignorant about bliss. Eeyore must have read some Socrates, who said “The unexamined life is not worth living.”

Knowledge has the power to expand our human experience. To learn any language is to open up to literally a whole new world. To learn any skill increases your self-confidence, and ability to add value to someone else’s life.

Give yourself the gift of seeing more than just sticks; challenge yourself to learn one new thing each day.

 

5. “They’re funny things, accidents. You never have them till you’re having them.”

To live life in bubble-wrap may prevent us from ever getting hurt, but it’ll certainly prevent us from ever experiencing a meaningful life.

So while we can do our best to be wise and cautious, ultimately our best is the best we can do. Accidents are indiscriminate—to try and live in prediction of them is paralyzing.

 

6. “A little consideration, a little thought for others, makes all the difference. Or so the say.”

Our survival mechanism means we possess an inherent selfishness. Babies will learn “mine!” as quickly as “mumma” or “daddy.”

As inherent are acts of selfishness, so too is the desire for selflessness—we’ve said it a thousand times: “It’s better to give than receive.” But kindness takes a little more effort than we’d like to admit; taking action to bridge the gap between desire and act can be an internal battle. But the possibility of making someone’s day, and even their life through what we can give should be good motivation. Even if the difference goes unnoticed.

 

7. “We can’t all, and some of us don’t.

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That’s all there is to it.”

“Can’t all what?” said Pooh, rubbing his nose.

“Gaiety. Song-and-dance. Here we go round the mulberry bush.”

It’s like being an introvert in a culture that preaches extroversion. Thankfully there’s more balance nowadays with introversion seen less as an issue to fix and more of a celebration.

But with any majority view or ‘cultural norm,’ there’s a always the temptation to feel as though there’s something wrong with you if you don’t fit into the neat cookie-cutter.

Simple, yet profound words from Eeyore: “We can’t all, and some of us don’t.” There’s beauty in being different. Cookie-cutters are meant for cookies, not life.

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http://www.reviewjournal.com/columns-blogs/steven-kalas/fatherhood-its-own-reward
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It is the devil’s lie to say that vulnerability is weakness. Rather, an open heart is the most powerful force in the universe. This is courage. (Look it up. The word courage, in its literal Latin origins means “open hearted.”)

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To be open-hearted is a tall order. But I am inspired to try. Not to mention to redeem. I feel as if I had won the cosmic lottery. Now I have the chance to try to be the person I feel I was meant to be.

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This is the paradox, you see. The practice of selfless love is no mere benefit to those you love. The selfless love of the compassionate person benefits the person too. It rescues and redeems his or her own soul.

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Dig out your root of bitterness    (tribute to Christian mystic Pastor Wilfredo Agngaray)    –

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http://www.greatbiblestudy.com/bitterness.php

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Bitterness is a root!

Hebrews 12:15, “Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled.”

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Bitterness is hidden under the soil or surface. The same is true with bitterness in a person’s soul. It is a hidden element that lies under the surface, and out of it sprouts up anger and other negative emotions against others and against the circumstances around us. People who have a root of bitterness find it easy to get upset over things that others are doing around them. It’s like a volcano that lies beneath the surface, waiting to explode onto the surface.

Bitterness is a root, thereby making it harder to identify and expose than many surface issues, but none the less it’s a deadly poison that needs to be released.

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“Why do you drink a poison brewed from the root of bitterness — in order to foment a curse on your adversary??”  rhetorically asks erudite sage Wilfredo Agngaray.

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My life has been a Griffin Dunne character in After Hours    

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Paul Hackett (Dunne) experiences a series of misadventures as he tries to make his way home  (mishaps produce laughter via cynicism, skepticism, & the irony of incurring wrath thru one’s desire of pleasure).

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This film is on the list of “Great Movies,” and it combines comedy, satire, and irony (irreducible truth) with unrelenting pressure and a sense of all-pervading paranoia/destruction.

Hopscotch to oblivion’, Barcelona, Spain

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http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dtPI9jIx1kU

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http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/After_Hours_(film)

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What others meant for evil, God meant for good   — the epiphany of Josephine A. Roche  — she loved to no end her dad — but also empathized with the forsaken of society  —

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In 1925, Roche returned to Colorado due to her father’s failing health, and in 1927 inherited his holdings in the Rocky Mountain Fuel Company, a coal mining company which he had founded.   By 1929, she had purchased a majority interest in the company and become president. She then proceeded to enact a variety of pro-labor policies, including an invitation for the United Mine Workers of America to return to Colorado and unionize her mines, 15 years after her father and other coal mine owners had broken the unions in the aftermath of the Ludlow Massacre of 1914.

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http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Josephine_Roche

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ludlow_Massacre

 

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The value of the Old Testament includes not just the pattern/representation of Jesus  — but also the expectation of long suffering  (perseverance of the saints)     –

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http://www.patheos.com/blogs/peterenns/2014/12/well-at-least-the-old-testament-has-one-thing-going-for-it/
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Their experiences are very much like ours today: life is hard, and life of faith does not automatically make it easier. It may actually make it harder at times.
Spiritual struggles are normal for Christians. They are not to be sought after, but they are normal. They are not to be romanticized, but they are normal. They are not to be shown off and bragged over, but they are normal.

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http://www.differentspirit.org/blog/gethsemane-and-what-follows/
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The suffering and sacrifice of Jesus allowed the Holy Spirit to be poured out on those who believe in Him. There is joy in our salvation, and joy in the promise of what is to come in eternity.

Trials and tribulations, pressure and suffering, are part of the human condition. Christians do not escape.

However, Christians have the joy of knowing that God is with us through times of pressure and suffering, and that He allows it because the final outcome will be good ( James 1:2-3, and Rom 8:28 ).

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Sadly, I see a bird in shock at seeing the bird’s mate run over by a car on the road.   Such a tragic sight has been replayed over and over since the automobile was invented over a century ago.

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Such a tragic sight is reminiscent of the insanity of war, with scenes of carnage replayed over and over since the beginning of humanity.

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In our Hawai’i legislative senate today, the takeover of the “chess club” (reformers)(its puffed up leader Donna Mercado Kim got deflated via exclusion) ) by the “opihis” (“corrupt” status quo) is reminiscent of the tragedy surrounding the assassination of President Garfield nearly a century and a half ago.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Half-Breed_(politics)

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http://www.reviewjournal.com/columns-blogs/steven-kalas/marriage-exposes-us-good-and-bad

Everybody knows that, when it comes to icebergs, there is more beneath the surface of the water than above. About 90 percent more.    The same is true with people.

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Such are the psychic content “beneath the surface.”

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http://www.patheos.com/blogs/peterenns/2015/06/did-jesus-even-live-a-brief-thought-about-scholarship-skepticism-and-apologetics/
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Time and again the study of Jesus has been swamped by waves of radical scepticism–to the point of denial of this historicity of Jesus. Three names may be mentioned as examples.

Bruno Bauer (1809-1882), who once lectured in theology at Bonn, regarded the earliest Gospel as a literary work of art: history is produced in it, not described. Albert Kalthoff (1850-1906) understood Jesus as a product of the religious needs of a social movement which had come into contact with the Jewish messianic expectation. Arthur Drews, who was professor of philosophy in Karlsruhe, declared Jesus to be the concretization of a myth which already existed before Christianity.

Here we find three motives for scepticism which are also operative where there is no dispute over the historicity of Jesus: Jesus is understood as a product of literary imagination, social needs or mythical traditions.

Here historical skepticism appears within or outside theology, often with a great ethical solemnity, and foists on its critics the ungrateful role of apologists driven by their wishes.

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http://www.reviewjournal.com/columns-blogs/steven-kalas/ambivalence-challenges-most-close-relationships

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An accepted bit of “wisdom” in our culture is that, in marriage, being “in love” and hot sex must, of necessity, “wear off.” The elders ask us to accept that.  But this bit of wisdom isn’t so wise.

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 In fact, it’s a sad excuse for lack of commitment to a most intimate spiritual togetherness.

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It is ambivalence that erodes love and sex. Nothing more. Nothing less. The human ego finds the experience of great vulnerability — great love — both compelling (approach-love)) and intolerable (avoid-hate). So we seek it, find it and then promptly begin to erode it, starve it (slow deprivation) and stonewall it (slow poison) so as to protect ourselves. This almost always is an unconscious process.   (slow deprivation/slow poison below)

In fact, that’s the rub: Ambivalence begins unconsciously. And we can’t manage it well unless we are willing to make it conscious. When ambivalence is made conscious, then we have choices for bearing it creatively, usefully, sometimes even playfully.

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http://www.reviewjournal.com/columns-blogs/steven-kalas/acknowledging-ambivalence-best-way-cope

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Perpetrators of domestic violence are provoked to violence in two primary ways.

One is obvious: the perpetrator’s felt loss of control over the mate. But lesser known is the alternate route to the perpetrator’s rage: the mate got too close, emotionally speaking. The perpetrator experienced an intimacy and therefore a vulnerability.

Other people, while not committing/experiencing acts of physical violence in marriage, can and do exhibit another type of disturbing — not normal — ambivalence.

I’m referring to couples with frequent cycles of reactive hostility pingponging back to cosmic sex and breathless romance. “Frequent” here can mean two to five such highs and lows in a given week. The participants are beaten to an emotional pulp.

For some folks, these slingshot highs and lows are near addictive.

The cycles create powerful bonds. Just not healthy bonds. Certainly not happy bonds.

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http://www.reviewjournal.com/columns-blogs/steven-kalas/bonds-untie-moment-barely-noticeable-moment

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The two most common enemies of marriage are the least obvious. And that’s a disturbing proposition, because we often don’t recognize the enemy as an enemy until it is too late.

It’s like termites. You don’t know you have termites until you come home to find your roof on the living room floor.

The most common enemies of marriage are treacherously subtle. Domestic violence, infidelity, addiction, vicious arguments — these enemies of marriage are obvious. But they are not the most common enemies. Just the most obvious.

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The two most common enemies of marriage are Slow Deprivation and Slow Poison.

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Slow Deprivation is what happens when your mate becomes slowly but surely inattentive to nurturing the bond. The connection. Your mate “falls asleep at the wheel,” so to speak. A little less present each day. Each week. Each month. But doesn’t know it. Doesn’t see it. And never had a conscious intention to do so.

It happens in subtle, mostly unnoticeable increments. It’s like feeding and watering your roses a little less … and less and less … and then being surprised to find that your roses are dying.

And the roses are duped, too. They don’t notice, either. Until their life is passed the point of no return.

Slow Deprivation is practiced by good people who are deeply in love and believe deeply in marriage.

How many times can you put your mate second in line, or fourth or ninth, even for all the “right” reasons (children, career, aging parents), before your mate decides he/she no longer particularly needs, wants or cares to be first in line?

How many times can you explain leaving the customaries of romance unattended by saying, “I’m just not very romantic,” as opposed to saying, “I should bloody well learn to be romantic”?

How many times can you decline great sex by saying, “I’m tired,” as opposed to saying, “I must be a better steward of my energy so that I can show up for great sex”?

How many times can you decline your mate’s eager invitations to join him/her in socializing, hobbies, recreations and interests before the invitations simply dry up? Stop.

It’s like eating one calorie less each day and then being sincerely shocked and surprised to find you’re starving to death.

If you are bent on teaching your mate not to need, want or desire you, then Slow Deprivation is the master teacher.

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Slow Poison is what happens when your mate slowly but surely acquires the habit of pushing negative energy into the marriage. Persistent complaining. Speaking in tones that are short, curt and sharp. Impatience. Mobilizing more warmth and eye contact to greet the dog than to greet you. Moving unconsciously across the line from playful teasing to sarcasm and belittling. Entitling oneself to chronic moodiness. Deciding that good manners no longer matter except in public. Forgetting to be grateful, appreciative, complimentary and encouraging.

These are slow-acting poisons. And they are deadly to marriage. Often these poisons are undiagnosed until the autopsy of divorce makes them plain.

I know this couple who devised a plan to help them stay alert to the enemies Slow Deprivation and Slow Poison. It’s absurdly simple: The Weekly Check In. Once each weekend (Saturday or Sunday depending on their schedule), they fix a time to talk.

Sometimes just sitting together. Depending on the weather, they might go for a Talk Walk. And they “check in.”

How are you? How are you feeling about our connection? Is there anything left over from (this or that conflict) we need to process or talk about? Are you getting what you need from me? Am I injecting poisons unawares? How goes your heart? Are you feeling loved?

Sometimes the conversations last four to eight minutes. Occasionally the conversations demand 90 minutes or so of tiring rigor and the tolerance of discomfort.

Theirs is a terrific idea and a faithful practice. It’s like having the termite inspector visit weekly. It’s like having garlic and holy water hanging by the front door in readiness for the occasional vampire. It’s like a weekly reconnaissance through the rose garden to see if your roses are happy and thriving. To check for aphids.

Marriage requires us to live consciously. Intentionally. Out loud in words. We must stay awake.

The bond of love is a living, organic creature. Which means it is also mortal. It can die.

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Mixed emotion

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My modern Jesus  —  towering intellectual & spiritual figure —   philosopher and theologian Reinhold Niebuhr   —

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http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/04/07/reinhold-niebuhr-religion_n_7019384.html?utm_hp_ref=religion
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The Library of America has published Reinhold Niebuhr: Major Works on Religion and Politics, which gathers four of his books, along with writings on contemporary events from the 1920s to the 1960s, a selection of prayers, and sermons and lectures on faith and belief. The volume is edited by Niebuhr’s daughter Elisabeth Sifton, an editor and book publisher for forty years and the author of The Serenity Prayer: Faith and Politics in Times of Peace and War.

The Library of America recently interviewed Sifton on why Niebuhr’s writings continue to fascinate and challenge today’s readers. This interview is published with permission.

What’s the aim of this collection, what sorts of pleasures, discoveries, and insights do you hope readers will find?

Reinhold Niebuhr was a writer and thinker who engaged fully in his times—from 1914 and World War I, through the heady 1920s, into the Great Depression, then World War II, the “nuclear age” and the Cold War. This book shows how he wrestled with the spiritual and political issues of those times: many of them are with us still, and some are with us always. In America—where he was born and raised, his very German name notwithstanding—he worked for better working conditions for people caught up in the rush of industrialization, he called for social justice in all our communities, and he strove for better relations between races. In international affairs, he ceaselessly advocated policies that would lessen the risk of war, and he argued that a rich and newly powerful nation like the US should learn better how to conduct itself vis-à-vis other nations. I hope readers will find wisdom here that deepens their understanding of our world today.

Why Reinhold Niebuhr in The Library of America? How would you characterize his contribution/legacy? His influence?

Niebuhr has been described as the most important American theologian of the twentieth century and as an especially influential American progressive. He knew how hard it was to alter entrenched power structures, but he combined his tough-minded political realism with a sympathetic understanding of society’s injustices and cruelties. Both his secular work and his theology became famous thanks to his memorable gifts as a public speaker, his huge productivity as a writer and teacher, and his frequent participation in national political discussions. In all these activities he never stopped being a pastor, which is how he started (he thought of himself more as a pastor than a theologian).

How would you characterize Niebuhr’s contribution as a public intellectual during the years covered by this volume?

He tried to wake people up to the inequities and failures in American society. He thought it deplorable that Americans were by and large so self-confidently certain of their basic goodness—meanwhile ignoring not only their own inadequacies (sins?) but also the threats and dangers to American democracy and to the world—whether human (in the form of fascist dictators) or material (nuclear weapons). His sermons and speeches were famous for the clarity and urgent force he gave to his exploration of these themes. One key opinion that infused both his theological and secular work was that possessing superior power or force does not make a person or a state wiser or braver, but it does heighten the danger of sinful hubris.

As a religious thinker?

I’m not qualified to answer this, but perhaps we can say that he sharpened and deepened the discourse about Christian ethics, Christian interpretations of the Gospels and Epistles, Christian understanding of secular society. He was a radical critic of much of American religious life, well known for the vigor with which he made his unclouded assessments. Again, he feared and decried the hubris of so many secular and religious leaders.

Did his thinking and writing fundamentally evolve over the years charted by the works in this collection?

Yes, it did. When he wrote Moral Man and Immoral Society (1932) he considered himself a social-democratic Marxist, but the traumas and dangers of the Depression led him to rethink his Marxist presuppositions and reformulate his ideas on the dynamics of social change and betterment. And, as he writes in “An End to Illusions,” included in the volume, he resigned from the Socialist Party in 1940 because he couldn’t go along with its isolationist refusal to take action against the fascists threatening Europe. Thereafter one sees a deepening and refinement of his positions. He insisted always on the important distinction to be made between Communism and socialism.

The fame and influence of The Irony of American History (1952) have made Niebuhr’s contribution to an understanding of American foreign policy well known, but can his thought also be brought to bear on domestic political considerations—such as inequality in America?

Yes, certainly. Indeed, Niebuhr believed that domestic and foreign policies were, and should be, related to each other; only despots or would-be despots separated them. As this book shows, America’s social-political-economic life, and the disparities separating rich and poor, were major concerns for Niebuhr from the very start of his ministry until his death a half-century later.

How might Niebuhr have responded to the widening gap between rich and poor that we see today?

I can’t “channel” my father, but it’s clear in everything he wrote and did that he considered social and economic inequities as unethical, immoral, even sinful. And he denounced the self-delusions and proud deceits that people invoke to preserve them. One prayer, included in this volume, reads in part: “We confess the indifference and callousness with which we treat the sufferings and the insecurity of the poor, and the pettiness which mars the relations between us. May we with contrite hearts seek once more to purify our spirits, and to clarify our reason so that a fairer temple for the human spirit may be built in human society.”

How might Niebuhr have responded to the new sorts of religious extremism we see with al Qaeda and now ISIS?

He frequently inveighed against religious fanaticism and against theocrats, whether Muslim, Christian, Jewish, or secular (as in the Soviet Union under Stalin). Al Qaeda and ISIS are new for us, but the history of violence-prone religious extremism is, tragically, as old as that of civilization itself. He could not have supported a foreign policy that requires America to battle jihadism around the globe while ignoring the social and spiritual strife that gives rise to it in the first place.

The LOA collection opens with Leaves from the Notebook of a Tamed Cynic (1929), a very personal and accessible book. How would you characterize its importance?

Niebuhr in his old age would shake his head over the popularity of his first book. But it’s never gone out of print for good reason: these pages from the diary he kept at Bethel Church in Detroit in the 1920s are disarmingly honest about the emotional, psychological, and spiritual dilemmas faced by inexperienced young pastors, and ever since it first appeared almost ninety years ago, inexperienced young pastors, priests, and teachers have found its counsels wise and its candor refreshing.

What does it tell us about Niebuhr’s only pastorate, and about his experiences in an ascendant Detroit?

Well, Detroit wasn’t quite his only pastorate: when his pastor father died in 1913, he left divinity school and returned to Lincoln, Illinois, to fill in there for a time. But to answer the question, the book shows you his first encounters with brutal capitalism at full throttle, which is what Detroit was experiencing in the 1920s in the new automobile factories. He witnessed at first hand the spiritual crises that people face when unstable social and economic conditions encourage divisive politics. And it deeply affected him.

How did you decide which of the uncollected pieces to include?

Few of the previous (and partial) collections of his writings included his copious journalism about national and international events as they occurred. We had hundreds of short articles to choose from, articles that were probably read by as many people as read his books or heard his sermons. I wanted to show them in chronological order, so that one could observe the speed and precision with which he addressed himself to crises in the headlines.

What’s the most interesting discovery you made in the course of putting the volume together?

When I put the journalism together with the sermons and lectures, I began to see how he often approached a given theme or issue: first, maybe writing an essay about it or preaching on a Biblical text he thought relevant to it, then exploring it further in a lecture, writing about it some more, perhaps, and praying about it. This kind of recycling pattern allowed him to finish an incredible number of assignments in any given week, but also gave him a way to re-examine and deepen his initial ideas.

What’s the most important thing you learned as a writer and thinker from your father’s example?

To be unafraid of prevailing, stifling orthodoxies.

Did he offer you practical advice?

Not really, but the Serenity Prayer is the best possible form of daily instruction.

President Obama has expressed his great admiration for Niebuhr as a thinker. Would Niebuhr have returned the compliment?

I am sure he’d have been happy to see such an intelligent, principled, brave black man in the White House—and a Democrat from Illinois, the state where he grew up, no less!

Do you have a favorite piece in the collection?

My father preached more than once on the mysterious Parable of the Wheat and the Tares, so one version of such a sermon is included; it’s a great example of his theological and moral subtlety about human life. And my favorite paragraph in his writing comes from chapter 3 of The Irony of American History:

Nothing that is worth doing can be achieved in our lifetime; therefore we must be saved by hope. Nothing which is true or beautiful or good makes complete sense in any immediate context of history; therefore we must be saved by faith. Nothing we do, however virtuous, can be accomplished alone; therefore we are saved by love. No virtuous act is quite as virtuous from the standpoint of our friend or foe as it is from our standpoint. Therefore we must be saved by the final form of love which is forgiveness.

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http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/g/georgeelio402277.html
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It seems to me we can never give up longing and wishing while we are thoroughly alive. There are certain things we feel to be beautiful and good, and we must hunger after them.

George Eliot

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Loneliness is a public health crisis

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http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/03/21/science-loneliness_n_6864066.html?utm_hp_ref=science
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Our time has been called the “age of loneliness.” It’s estimated that one in five Americans suffers from persistent loneliness, and while we’re more connected than ever before, social media may actually be exacerbating the problem.

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There are ways to break the cycle of isolation.

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Here are ways to combat chronic feelings of loneliness and isolation:

Here are three main types of treatment for loneliness: group therapy, individual treatments (working with a therapist to improve befriending skills or to minimize negative beliefs that might contribute to loneliness) and community interventions (events focused on reaching out to lonely people).

Examining a body of existing literature on the subject, the researchers concluded that the most promising line of treatment for loneliness is individual therapy that addresses the thought patterns and beliefs — such as low self-esteem or shame — that prevent a person from connecting with others. With further research, they say, this treatment could be combined with pharmaceutical treatments, such as short-term courses of oxytocin, a hormone known to promote pro-social behavior.

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The study noted that the U.K. government has developed several initiatives to improve quality of life for those suffering from chronic loneliness and to raise awareness about the issue. The authors also point to efforts to help people t find more connections in their daily interactions.

Over a given period, people who have strong ties to family, friends, or coworkers have a 50 percent greater chance of outliving those with fewer social connections.    If our relationships can have such an effect on our overall health, why don’t we prioritize spending time with the people around us as much as we do exercising and eating right?

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Spirit nullifies pride (man’s puffed up overpride)

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Overlay on spirit-killing pride and our mob mentality    —

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Betty Nelson and Rosella Nelson view the body of John Dillinger while in bathing suits at the Cook County Morgue, located at Polk and Wood Streets, in Chicago. In the days after Dillinger was killed on July 22, 1934, massive crowds lined up outside the morgue to get a glimpse of the notorious public enemy.

dill
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Ex-reputed State crime syndicate mob boss Henry Huihui was my client nearly 40 yrs. ago .   Great wordsmith/author Jason Ryan chronicles spirit-killing pride and our mob mentality,

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both in law  (Charles & son Chuckers Marsland)

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and out law  —

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pride pulls into the abyss of hell the human journey in virtually any form or circumstance.

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Pride’s killing power hits home — my neighbor Leilani Castro Alconera Kim was murdered  at a posh Kona resort 4 decades ago, allegedly by her hubby (Wildcat Kim’s brother).

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https://books.google.com/books?id=Iq6DBQAAQBAJ&pg=PA191&lpg=PA191&dq=josiah+lii&source=bl&ots=npXhag5rge&sig=uws-WeMHvi-zNWcWcRGqwDe4jbU&hl=en&sa=X&ei=ZWf7VNDNAcKyoQTCz4H4Dg&ved=0CCEQ6AEwATgU#v=onepage&q=josiah%20lii&f=false

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Harold Biggie Chan’s friend Joe Ng was a low key cool fella a la Meyer Lansky, a positive projection .    Like Ng,  an older Alema Leota disdained attention-getting mob meltdowns.

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PUBLISHERS WEEKLY

Hell-Bent: One Man’s Crusade to Crush the Hawaiian Mob

Jason Ryan, Author

Jason Ryan. Globe Pequot/Lyons, $26.95 (320p) ISBN 978-0-7627-9303-7

Reviewed on: 12/01/2014   (book release 3 wks. before)
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Journalist and author Ryan recounts the story of Honolulu prosecutor Charles Marsland, a man on a mission to find justice for his son’s murder and take down the Honolulu crime syndicate believed to be responsible.

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The sordid saga begins in 1975 with the shooting death of Chuckers Marsland amid a plague of violence and corruption in Hawaii with gangsters shaking down gambling operations, killing rivals, and partying with Don Ho.

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Amid those suspected of the murder are Eric Naone, a violent bodyguard, Ronnie Ching, “thief, pimp, drug dealer, and professional killer,” and Raymond Scanlan, a corrupt ex-cop with a missing service weapon.

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Enter “abrasive, aggressive, tough-talking” Charles Marsland, grieving father and civil attorney turned head city prosecutor, who is intent on speaking out about the legal system’s “incompetence, cronyism, [and] outright corruption.”

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In addition to avenging his son’s death, Marsland seeks to prove that local businessman Larry Mehau is the shadowy godfather of the Hawaiian mafia.

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The book culminates in a trial against the major suspects after a confession by the notoriously deceptive Ching hoping to exchange information on Mehau’s criminal activity for a plea bargain.

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Ryan’s well-researched account expertly weaves historical fact into an engrossing true crime narrative to present a fascinating piece of Hawaiian history at odds with its idyllic image.

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In praise of Pastor Cheryle Uehara

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Pastor Cheryle Uehara look-alike
Grace Kelly
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Pastor Cheryle Uehara’s daughter Tammy recently passed away on the cusp of Passover and the highest of Holy Days for Christians  — Easter.   Tammy was preceded in Tammy’s homecoming with Lord Jesus by Tammy’s 2 other siblings — Pastor Cheryle’s 2 other children — leaving one child here, Tyler, as Lord Jesus’ current earthly betrothal, along with Tyler’s mother, Pastor Cheryle.
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“While it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb.” (John 20:1)
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As with Mary Magdalene, Pastor Cheryle’s odyssey compels and inspires.
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I look up to Mary Magdalene, as I do anyone such as Pastor Cheryle and her son Tyler — all who by the grace of God  — move forward in the dark.   When there is no light. No fire. No sunrise. The future impossible to predict, anticipate or even imagine. Even the light of hope utterly extinguished. The only things left to remind us we are alive are emptiness and suffering.
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This is Mary Magdalene’s reality.  It is Cheryle’s reality, as well as Tyler’s.    It is still dark.
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These are the wee hours of Sunday. The sun yet arisen. Mary Magdalene’s heart is broken, devastated. Jesus is dead — unjustly and cruelly tortured and murdered — and with him has died every hope she had placed in the man and the message. For, if the God about which Jesus spoke is real, then how could God allow such meaningless suffering at the hands of hate and fear?
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Apparently the nihilists are right: Life is a crud, and you die.
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Anomie: “The general mood of despair at a perceived pointlessness of existence.”
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It is in this darkness that Christianity manifests   —  “Life is suffering.”     Yes, but there is so much more.    A profound riddle in this unfolding, really.    Not just ingenuity and an open mind, as one experiences especially in Asian cultures.
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I remember the wife whose husband was in a hospice bed. She pulled me into the chapel and confronted me with this question: “Is there any hope?”       I said, “It depends on what you mean by hope.”
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Is there hope that we can live and die, endure in the celebrations and sufferings of love —  and find peace, joy, meaning and purpose?
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Yes! Hope abounds!
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“Am I broken?”
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Yes, we all fall short of the glory.    One can be unlucky enough to draw a genetic flaw from the biologically capricious and  imperfect deck of life.
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“The people in darkness have seen a great Light.” (Isaiah 9:2)
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But you have to keep moving forward. While it is still dark.   There is much more up ahead.
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When your loved ones die … when your own death has moved from intellectualized data point to an actual doctor’s diagnosis … when dreams die … when your marriage dies … when your child is lost in self-destructive living … or you are likewise lost … when your enemies rule the day in injustice … when hope dies …
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Pastor Cheryle’s daughter Tammy neither asked for nor deserved a genetic flaw (aneurysm),  any more than the passengers on Germanwings Flight 9525 deserved a dangerously psychotic pilot.
http://www.nytimes.com/2015/04/19/world/europe/germanwings-plane-crash-andreas-lubitz-lufthansa-pilot-suicide.html?partner=rss&emc=rss
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We still have choices. We can give up. Or we can move forward. While it is still dark.
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If you don’t embrace resurrection  as a spiritual tenet, then consider it as a pattern. For resurrection has to do with the miracle of life arising from death.
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You were lost, now you are found.    You were dead, now you are alive.    In Lord Jesus.
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Hope is not a feeling; hope is a discipline.
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We move forward.     Just as Mary Magdalene does.    Just as Pastor Cheryle and Tyler do.
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We keep reaching our hands into the well of water,  thirsting for life and meaning.
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We never give up.
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Endurance is worship.
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Some of the most beautiful, most profound, most powerful, meaningful and sublime gifts are resurrected from suffering. There lies priceless treasure out there in the darkness.

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I often reflect on the verses in Psalm 87 suggesting that all believers in the One God are symbolically born into God. The psalmist envisions everyone having, in essence, two birth certificates: one recording the emergence of her or his body into this world, and the other testifying to the birth of the person’s soul in Jerusalem eons ago, at the time of Creation.
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Within the walls of Jerusalem’s Old City —   Armenians, Jews and Palestinians live in adjacent quarters. On the level of the physical body, all three peoples have endured massacres in the last century — two on a genocidal scale. So all are survivor communities, suffering-servant peoples experiencing death and resurrection, and acting as witnesses to the triumph of the spirit over horrific suffering. On the spiritual and emotional levels, all three peoples have experienced exile from their homelands, being refugees or “strangers in strange lands.”
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Can there be some transcendent lesson in this interface of sorrows and of aspirations for homecoming and healing?
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The image I have is of three traumatized individuals walking through darkness and holding flickering candles to illumine their way, candles lit by their forebears to get them through the dark nights of the soul  —
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three wandering pilgrims yearning to return home, afraid that out of the darkness some old or new enemy will attack them, afraid of perpetual victimization and the prospect of total annihilation, afraid to trust others who might help them overcome their trauma and dread.
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And then, suddenly, the three frightened pilgrims converge in Jerusalem, the light of their candles revealing each other’s faces, as each experiences the shock of mutual recognition. For in the human faces is the reflection of something mysteriously Divine.
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Each of them can echo to the others the exclamation of the wounded Jacob, renamed Israel, as he was reunited with his estranged brother Esau: “I see your face as though I am seeing the face of God.”   (Genesis 33:10)
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This transcendent sense of Jerusalem as our common Mother City, helping us face one another as siblings in the sacred family drama still unfolding in our own lives — such faith-conviction and endurance —   strengthen our hope for the healing of our world and the realization of true salvation.
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Unlike empty tropes/cure-alls/riddles  (e.g. koans  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/K%C5%8Dan#Insight ) —  Christianity overcomes vexing despair, indifference, hopelessness, and tragedy — rampant in today’s global culture of instant gratification and gratuitous violence/pleasure.
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When Paul says that Jesus died and was raised “in accordance with the scriptures,” he is not suggesting we play Where’s Waldo with the Old Testament to look for some verses that speak of Jesus in a predictive way. He is saying “look for these patterns of God’s dealings with his people of old and then see what happens with them in Jesus.”
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As an example, the Biblical Joseph story is not a “prediction” of Jesus’s crucifixion and resurrection in any sense of the word. And to limit how we see the connection between this story and the gospel as “prediction” is really to under-read the “patterns” in the Bible.
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From the point of view of the Old Testament writers,  these stories of Israel’s patriarchs were written from the point of view of Israel’s later experience of going into their own “pit/death”  of exile in Babylon –-  returning home was a kind of “national resurrection.”
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In other words, Israel’s later realities were scripted into their ancient stories.
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The gospel writers and Paul follow on this theme by portraying Jesus as returning his people from “exile,”  thus being raised from the dead. Jesus’s own physical resurrection is an embodiment and therefore fuller expression of the Old Testament nationalistic ideal.
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Creation requires transgression, the obliteration of boundaries, and a vision beyond vision. The evoker does not choose one’s creation. The creation chooses the expressor.
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Creation is a subtraction of self, an absence, a loss one experiences and hopes to share.  Loneliness.  Few ever escape the afflictions of spiritual poverty, depression, illness, and addiction. Creation hurts. One fails anew each day.
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Pastor Cheryle draws water from the well of her life’s work, and moves onward indwelled and poured out via Jesus.  Flesh world’s anomalies do not deter her.

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Paradox and irony seem quite distinct.

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Paradox relies on the clarity and exactness of language; it shows that truth can be expressed by words alone.

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Irony uses words to point beyond language.

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Irony shows that there are some truths which, though they cannot be articulated in words,

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can none the less be expressed by means of words.

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Irony, like many other figures, is a way of transcending and ultimately extending the limited resources of everyday language,

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of ensuring that it does not disguise thought

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but is both the midwife and the medium of thought.

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Not everything that can be thought at all can be thought clearly,

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but everything that can be thought at all can be put into words.

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E.g. –
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And yet,

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The Epicurean paradox “problem of evil” is a cosmic irony due to the sharp contrast/incongruity between reality and human ideals, or between human intentions and actual results. The resulting situation is poignantly contrary to what was expected or intended.

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http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Paradoxes#Philosophy
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Visioner Liz Bishaw quotes Ezekiel 42 regarding the vision of the order and beauty of the restored kingdom ( Ezekiel 40:1-48:35  )
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that all 4 of Pastor Cheryle’s children
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are called by God to restore God’s temple.
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After all,  this is God’s
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memorial unto all generations;
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the name by which God should be made mention of both by God and others, and by which God would be called to remembrance by God’s people, and what God had promised unto them, and done for them.      
http://biblehub.com/exodus/3-15.htm
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And that the children’s mother still has more to do for and with Lord Jesus here in this life.
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Its offerings rather discountenances the view of this vision being only symbolic, and not truly literal.   This vision is literal in its entirety.  The event alone can clear it up.   At all events it has not yet been fulfilled; it must be future.
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Ezekiel was the only prophet (in the strict sense) among the Jews at Babylon.
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Daniel was rather a seer than a prophet, for the spirit of prophecy was given him to qualify him, not for a spiritual office, but for disclosing future events. His position in a heathen king’s palace fitted him for revelations of the outward relations of God’s kingdom to the kingdoms of the world, so that his book is ranked by the Jews among the Hagiographa or “Sacred Writings,”
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not among the prophetical Scriptures.
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On the other hand, Ezekiel was distinctively a prophet,
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and one who had to do with the inward concerns of the divine kingdom.
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As a priest, when sent into exile, his service was but transferred from the visible temple at Jerusalem to the spiritual temple in Chaldea.
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Such mystical visions of Pastor Liz constitute an instance of the providential boldness by which Pastor Liz operates through the Holy Spirit.  
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And both Pastor Cheryle and Tyler accept and appreciate visioner Liz’ homecoming recital.
 
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One of the intellectual challenges to Christianity is the delay of the parousia–the Greek term meaning “presence, arrival, visit,” i.e., Second Coming.
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I wonder whether Christians may not have something to learn from this Jewish critique.
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Similar to how Jews in the 1st century were concerned that failure to remain faithful to the covenant not only caused the exile a half a millennium earlier but perpetuated the half-millennium delay of the messianic age,
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perhaps the parousia is delayed because Christians haven’t yet figured out how to be the body of Christ.
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Maybe the problem of the delay of the parousia isn’t simply a theological conundrum to be solved through closer exegesis or theological anomaly cure.
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http://www.huffingtonpost.com/shalin-shah/thank-you-cancer_b_7260708.html

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I want to share my experience of realizing how beautiful the gift of life truly is in the hopes that it can inspire others who are going through tough times to appreciate the positive in life a little more.

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http://www.reviewjournal.com/columns-blogs/steven-kalas/hero-or-abuser-neither
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web1_28971152.sfxl.jpg

 

“Is she a hero, or a child abuser?”

It’s 5 o’clock in the morning. I’m a guest on “The Alan Stock Show” on KDWN-AM (720). (Love the new digs, by the way!)

Alan is asking me about the now-famous Baltimore mom who was filmed shouting, cursing and repeatedly smacking her cowering teenage son after discovering said son with a rock in his hand at a protest about the death of Freddie Gray.

“Is she a hero, or a child abuser?”

Now, if you read my column, you know that I’m a passionate opponent and critic of corporal punishment. So what I said to Alan might surprise you.

“Neither,” I said. “She’s an icon. She’s an icon of our collective frustration regarding permissive and/or absent parents.”

When I watched the video of Baltimore Mom, I immediately recognized my own mother …

I was 5 years old. Somehow my buddy Doug had pilfered a book of matches. We are kneeling on the sidewalk, leaning over a gutter, gleefully setting fire to dry grass, leaves and bits of trash. What fun!

I looked to see my mother sprinting down the sidewalk toward me. She was “locked on” like a predator on the African savanna. As she swooped the last few feet, her hand became a talon, snatching and lifting me to my feet.

There was yelling. She chased me home, whopping my retreating butt every eight or 10 strides. At home was more intensity, then remanded to my room to read a Smokey Bear book about forest fires.

Hero or child abuser? Neither. Just a prototypical mother in whom terror, outrage and shame collide.

Like when a toddler drifts off the sidewalk into the street. There’s the screech of brakes. The car stops mere feet from the child. The mother screams, runs to the child, weeping. Lifts the child to her breast, rocking frantically … then lowers the child to the ground and whales on him.

It only seems like a contradiction. But it’s all the same terror. When parents are surprised by the near miss of danger, our reflex is to instill a necessary fear in our children. Because we’d rather have them mad at us than dead.

Outrage? Oh yeah. In junior high, my eldest once tried out for the role of “bully” on his school playground. He and a few other boys threw rocks at the feet of another boy to make him “dance.”

I was outraged. I hate bullies. I yelled. It was the one and only time I’ve ever uttered the words “I’m disappointed in you!” I sentenced him to community service. Made him spend the weekend at church, working for the groundskeeper.

But, I gotta tell you: Had I been on that school playground … had I looked up to see my son throwing those rocks in real time …

Well, I can see myself laying my hands on him. Oh, not to hit him. Rather, grabbing his wrist as his hand raises with a rock. Collaring him and yanking him away from the circle. If need be, tackling him.

Because bullying is not OK.

Shame? Parents feel the weight of shame regarding the behavior of their children. The shame is painful. This is why I go out of my way to make eye contact and be encouraging with parents who bring babies/toddlers on airplanes.

Shame! Can you imagine the police coming to your door and saying that it was your son who committed the shooting spree at the mall? Not sure I’d ever be able to hold my head up in public again.

I’m not lauding corporal punishment. Just saying I “get” Baltimore Mom. And that, if I have to choose, I like her response better than being absent or permissive.

I think we’re all really sick of absent and permissive.

Absent, permissive, abusive: I say let’s retire all three.

 

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Biblical pleasant fruit    —  

 

http://biblehub.com/songs/7-13.htm

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which are

new and old; denoting the plenty of grace and blessings of pleasant fruit, of old laid up in Christ, and from whom there are fresh supplies continually: or rather the doctrines of the Old and New Testament; which, for matter and substance, are the same; and with which the church, and particularly her faithful ministers, being furnished, bring forth out of their treasure things new and old, Matthew 13:52;

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which I have laid up for thee, O my beloved; Christ, whom her soul loved; for though the above fruits, the blessings, promises, and doctrines of grace, which she laid up in her heart, mind, and memory, to bring forth and make use of at proper times and seasons, were for her own use and benefit, and of all believers, yet in all for the honour and glory of Christ, the author and donor of them. Respect may be had to a custom with lovers, to lay up fruits for those they love; at least such custom may be compared with this.

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mandrakes—Hebrew, dudaim, from a root meaning “to love”

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Brain Memory

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http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/05/01/diary-online_n_7109776.html?utm_hp_ref=arts

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Searching for Sunday: Loving, Leaving, and Finding the Church 

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My mother used to tell me that we weren’t the type of people to air out our dirty laundry. What she meant was good Southern girls didn’t go around talking about their troubles or divulging their secrets. (I can only assume it was by some divine corrective that their daughter turned out to be a blogger.)

But this is a cultural idiom, not a Christian one.

We Christians don’t get to send our lives through the rinse cycle before showing up to church. We come as we are    -–    no hiding, no acting, no fear.

We come with our materialism, our pride, our petty grievances against our neighbors, our hypocritical disdain for those judgmental people in the church next door.

We come with our fear of death, our desperation to be loved, our troubled marriages, our persistent doubts, our preoccupation with status and image.

We come with our addictions–to substances, to work, to affirmation, to control, to food.

We come with our differences, be they political, theological, racial, or socioeconomic. We come in search of sanctuary, a safe place to shed the masks and exhale.

We come to air our dirty laundry before God and everybody because when we do it together

we don’t have to be afraid.

(pp. 70-71)

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I can tell you what I hear a lot: church is fake, and if church is fake, God is fake, and life is too short for fake, so no thanks.    Please, no church, ok??!!

People  need to hear that they are understood, and to watch someone model the very path they are on and yet still talk about church in a hopeful way.

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Rachel is able to speak to people like that because she went through that process herself–not to mention she is a great writer, with a healthy tone of self-deprecation and humility in all of it. She sees herself in this list; I see myself, too.

 

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/peterenns/2015/05/a-brief-word-on-rachel-held-evans-her-dirty-laundry-and-her-new-book/
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http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/05/12/pew-religious-landscape-survey-2014_n_7259770.html?utm_hp_ref=religion

America Is Getting Less Christian And Less Religious, Study Shows

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http://www.huffingtonpost.com/lisa-tener/writing-a-book-forget-formulatry-method-_b_7157396.html?utm_hp_ref=books&ir=Books
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Narrative can follow a deep psychological form, like Joseph Campbell’s work with The Hero with a Thousand Faces — but I don’t think we get to the heart of the stories we’re writing by filling out the boxes of what happens at 75 percent or 95 percent of the way through the timeline/chronological narrative. I’ve tried that approach and it kills  creativity.

I think it’s far better to “pants” — write by the seat of your pants — and then use tools like the three tools of Book Architecture: the grid, the arc, and the target to ascertain what you’re working with and how to make your material come together on its own terms.

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As writers, we want to create something original, so we need to “pants” first and then find some tools to assess what we’ve done that will help us evolve our thinking over the next horizon…and then the next. This way we’re in a constant dance with our own unfolding imaginations. And that’s the best thing about writing that there is.

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Although I don’t drink alcohol, I accompanied my friend & Alcoholics Anonymous leader for our island to a community group therapy session.   I went in cynically with the 4-word notion of “practice what you preach” when alcoholics stay sober by urging others to stay sober (the so-called hypocrisy of not addressing self-restraint/responsibility).    Lo/behold, I came out with the amazing 3-word resolution of “man’s fallen nature”    — that you do whatever it takes to  keep you straight   — even if it means telling others to stay straight in order for you to stay straight  — I thereby accept man’s fallen nature & proceed accordingly  — instead of being haughty/puffed up/judgmental.

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http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jamie-arpinricci/the-vulnerable-faith-of-brene-brown_b_7021714.html?utm_hp_ref=books&ir=Books      adaptation below   —
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As with  the Reinhold Niebuhr (1892–1971) Serenity Prayer, we must  be willing to name our imperfections and accept what we cannot change.

This critical point is central to the book, Vulnerable Faith: Missional Living in the Radical Way of St. Patrick (Paraclete Press, 2015), where one draws  from the gritty truths of Alcoholics Anonymous’ 12 Steps. The steps take for their foundation an unqualified declaration that we are powerless alone to overcome our own hurts, hangups, and habits  — that we need something bigger than ourselves. Most of us hide from the difficult reality by embracing what I call “the other deadly sin” —  pretense.

“Pretense, like hypocrisy, is the act or appearance of being something that it is not. It is about giving the impression of something as being true that is, in fact, false.”

From the covering of our nakedness in Eden to the polite dishonesty of “putting on our Sunday best,” pretense is borne from our fear — fear of being separated, alienated and rejected. Yet it also becomes the prison that keeps us bound up. Vulnerability is a path to freedom from these chains, but a freedom purchased at a high price. It should not surprise us that we so often opt for pretense over vulnerability — after all, the latter is a call to a form of death, in part what Jesus means when He calls us to take up our crosses and follow Him. However, when we follow this path to the cross surrounded by the love and grace of God and trusted family and friends, the liberty frees us to be people we were truly meant to be. As Jean Vanier reminds us:

Coming to terms with life means embracing the essence of our humanity, which is vulnerable. Life implies death. Loving one another implies the possibility of humiliation or rejection. This is reality. But to live in fear is not to live at all. And so we must be vulnerable so that we are free from fear, free to love.

Far more than simply a self-help method of personal freedom, the liberty that comes with vulnerability frees us, as Vanier pointed out, to truly love others. The beauty of the saving work of Jesus Christ is that, as we embrace humble vulnerability, out of our weakness and brokenness emerges ministry. Despite the thinking of modern marketing, that suggests our faith will be most appealing to others when they see it as a glorious and flawless life, the wisdom of vulnerability demonstrates that people are more likely to be drawn to a community of mutually struggling, yet hopeful and gracious people. In other words, there is more hope in honest brokenness than in the pretense of false wholeness.

This is why I choose St. Patrick of Ireland as my patron saint of vulnerability. Patrick was born to privilege, power and wealth. Yet, it was when he was kidnapped and sold into slavery that he was forced to face the emptiness of the pretense in his life. Not only did that process bring him into a meaningful faith in God, but also produced in him a love that was truly selfless. After all, after his escape to freedom, that love led him back to the land of his captors as a servant missionary. His example is worth our consideration.

Thomas Merton once said, “We stumble and fall constantly even when we are most enlightened. But when we are in true spiritual darkness, we do not even know that we have fallen.” The work of Brené Brown invites us to shed light into that darkness and to face our imperfection with humility and hope, to embrace a the power of a vulnerable faith.

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Biblical Jonah typifies our broken fallen nature   — hailed as a prophet for going to Nineveh to proclaim Nineveh’s destruction (Nimrod’s city), Jonah’s overpride eventually spells Jonah’s doom.   Like Jonah, our lives go up and down like a pogo stick, eventually staying stuck in the abyss of self-pity.

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Christianity’s Crucifixion and Resurrection of Jesus are about love for one another, even if it means giving up one’s own life for another.    

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Unlike Asian faith/thought  (solitary escape-release from suffering  — Japan has among the highest suicide rates among industrialized nations), Christianity is about helping one another, not solely for one’s own salvation, but especially for the wellbeing of others.   Jesus died to save us, why shouldn’t we die when necessary to save others?

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Love is all about relationship   — to love one another  — and to be loved by one another.    

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Sunday morning Christians say relationship, not religion, but the truth and reality of Christian love are way deeper than boorish impetuous quick fix catch phrases.  

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I am reminded of David Foster Wallace, who in “This Is Water” urges us to imagine with generosity the lives we encounter: “I can choose,” he tells us, “to force myself to consider the likelihood that everyone else in the supermarket’s checkout line is just as bored and frustrated as I am, but that some of these people probably have harder, more tedious and painful lives than me.”

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Christianity does not just “swallow its own stomach.”    Yes, the truth and reality of Lord Jesus  entail endless reflection and violent reversals, and ensure incomprehensibility at the moment they compel speech.  

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Yet, unlike especially Eastern religion mindless aimless tropes/cure-alls/riddles  (e.g. koans

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/K%C5%8Dan#Insight ) —

 Christianity overcomes vexing despair, indifference, hopelessness, and tragedy — rampant in today’s global culture of instant gratification and gratuitous violence/pleasure.

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Conflict between Western (hubris/mammon) and Arab (rural/rustic/compassionate) civilizations   (the bad guy sides with the good guys and  becomes the good guy)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Body_of_Lies_(film)#Themes

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Jesus fulfills “patterns” not “predictions.”

In other words, rather than thinking “Here is where the Old Testament clearly predicts Jesus of Nazareth,” think, “Who Jesus was and what he did was described by these early Christian writers by calling upon Old Testament ‘patterns’ that they believed reached their fullest and final expressions in Jesus.”

So when Paul says that Jesus died and was raised “in accordance with the scriptures,” he is not suggesting we play Where’s Waldo with the Old Testament to look for some verses that speak of Jesus in a predictive way. He is saying “look for these patterns of God’s dealings with his people of old and then see what happens with them in Jesus.”

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The Joseph story is not a “prediction” of Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection in any sense of the word. And to limit how we see the connection between this story and the gospel as “prediction” is really to under-read the “patterns” in the Bible.

From the point of view of the Old Testament writers, and in my opinion, these stories of Israel’s patriarchs were written from the point of view of Israel’s later experience of going into their own “pit/death”  of exile in Babylon–returning home was a kind of “national resurrection.”

In other words, Israel’s later realities were scripted into their ancient stories.

The gospel writers and Paul follow on this theme by portraying Jesus as returning his people from “exile,” thus being raised from the dead. Jesus’ own physical resurrection is an embodiment  and therefore fuller expression of the Old Testament nationalistic ideal.

 

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/peterenns/2015/04/does-the-old-testament-predict-easter-no-actually-it-does-more/#ixzz3WkrJEa3q
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Jacob’s Dream

by William Blake (c. 1805, British Museum, London)

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Christotelic  —  Telos is a Greek word meaning “end” or “goal.”  

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Toward Christ.

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The Old Testament does not  flow easily into the New Testament,

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nor do the Old Testament writers “predict” Jesus of Nazareth in any conventional sense of the word “predict.”

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The tendency toward “mystical”(i.e., midrashic ) readings of scripture in Judaism at that time is the hermeneutical (interpretive) backdrop for understanding our “Christotelic” hermeneutic (an instance of genre-calibration — interpret the New Testament alongside the other ancient analog Old Testament).

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This is why – as several Bible readers  know – New Testament writers, when quoting the Old Testament, typically “take it out of context,” meaning the context of the original utterance. The gospel includes creative re-framing of Israel’s story.

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adapted from

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http://www.patheos.com/blogs/peterenns/2015/03/get-to-know-me-my-approach-to-interpreting-the-bible-in-5-words/
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And that is the goal of story: to make meaning out of a set of events  — into a collective narrative. 

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The right words can help us apprehend our lives in deeper, more intentional and more meaningful ways.

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There’s a reason the Hebrew verb dabar can mean either “to say” or “to do.” The Hebrew worldview speaks to the power of words: “And God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light.”

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What inspires one?   Life. Love. Tragedy. Suffering. Redemption. Evil. Beneficence. Truth. Beauty. Moral dilemmas. Mystery. The human journey inspires one, in virtually any form or circumstance.

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http://www.lvrj.com/blogs/kalas/Playing_with_words_is_fun_as_well_as_meaningful.html
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These, anyhow, are the price of admission, or as Luke intones,  the cost of discipleship .         

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Jesus lived without wealth, position, status, and even acceptance in that He was rejected by His own (John 1:11). Unlike the foxes that have their dens and the birds their nests, the Son of Man had no place to lay His head (Matt. 8:20).     

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What about us? Although rights, privileges, pleasures, possessions, expectations, and well-formed plans may not be wrong in and of themselves, are we willing to hold them just temporarily and  then let them go?

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Though nowhere near the caliber of Jesus,   contemporary social outsiders who expose to absurdity especially the manners of the upper gentry include Charles Dickens and W.M. Thackeray  —   thematically, we  all are flawed to a greater or lesser degree. 

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A riddle is a statement or question or phrase having a double or veiled meaning, put forth as a puzzle to be solved. Riddle enigmas are problems generally expressed in metaphorical or allegorical language that require ingenuity and careful thinking for their solution.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Riddle
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Hope   —

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The Thorn Birds book title obliquely refers to the mythical “thornbird” that searches for thorn trees from the day it is hatched. When it finds the perfect thorn, it impales itself, and sings the most beautiful song ever heard as it dies. It directly alludes, as should be obvious from the novel’s subject matter, to the Parable of the Sower in the Synoptic Gospels and chapter 9 of the Gospel of Thomas.     The seeds falling on thorns represent those who hear the word, but allow fleshly carnality, such as lust, to kill the word   — as with a taboo relationship between priest and penitent.

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Whether you are prepared to pay it or, whether it coincides or conflicts with your attitude on what is “nice” is something for you to decide.

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F. Scott Fitzgerald on the Secret of Great Writing

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Irony entails endless reflection and violent reversals, and ensures incomprehensibility at the moment it compels speech.     Essentially, irony swallows its own stomach.

 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Irony#Irony_as_infinite.2C_absolute_negativity
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In this sense, the parable of the workers in the vineyard (Matthew 20:1-16) is unique to Matthew’s Gospel because it does not give us an explicit interpretation (unlike the parable of the sower in Matthew 13).
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 As a result, scholars have offered many interpretations, including the implication of justifying unfair or abusive labor practices by employers. 
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Does Jesus mean that we should be content when we or other workers are treated unfairly?
“The majority will rule”  (negative connotation is “mob rule”)  —   our creed   —  honest day’s wages for honest day’s work, not pay for non-performance, our majority rule/ethic  —
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is upended by God’s rule of follow me into my Kingdom  —

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Perhaps the parable is not really about work. The context is that Jesus is giving surprising examples of those who belong to God’s kingdom: for example, children (Matt. 19:14) who legally don’t even own themselves. He is clear that the kingdom does not belong to the rich, or at least not to very many of them (Matt. 19:23-26). It belongs to those who follow him, in particular if they suffer loss. “Many who are first will be last, and the last will be first” (Matt. 19:30). The present parable is followed immediately by another ending with the same words, “the first will be last, and the last will be first” (Matt. 20:16). This suggests that the story is a continuation of the discussion about those to whom the kingdom belongs. Entry into God’s kingdom is not gained by our work or action, but by the generosity of God.

http://www.theologyofwork.org/new-testament/matthew/living-in-the-new-kingdom-matthew-18-25/the-laborers-in-the-vineyard-matthew-201-16/
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Paradoxes are irresolvable truths, not contradictions, in which only one opposite is true (a contradiction).

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Irony and paradox as distinct and not convergent   —

 

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http://www.doe.virginia.gov/testing/sol/standards_docs/english/2010/lesson_plans/reading/nonfiction/9-12/14_11-12_readingnonfiction_recognizing_ambiguity_contraction.pdf
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There is something compelling about people’s stories, something that taps into a deep human need for narrative. The pull of Pericopes and Parables can really be traced back to ancient story telling traditions, which exist in every world culture. We see parts of ourselves in both ancient and modern-day narratives, just as we construct stories about our own personal realities.

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Psychological scientists have in recent years begun to examine this deep human yearning for story — in particular our need to create a coherent narrative identity. They have been using narrative identity as both an indicator of psychological health and a possible tool for enhancing well-being.

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We all construct a coherent narrative identity, according to the emerging theory, from the accumulated particulars of our autobiographies as well as our envisioned goals. We internalize this story over time, and use it to convey to ourselves and others who we are, where we came from, and where we think we’re heading. Consider the example of redemption. McAdams and other scientists have been asking people to narrate scenes and extended stories from their past, and then they code the accounts for key ideas like redemption and self-determination and community. They have found that people who include themes of redemption in their stories — a marked transition from bad to good — are less focused on themselves and more focused on community and the future. They’re more mature emotionally.

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This is just one example of how people make narrative sense of the suffering in their lives. Others have studied how people narrate life challenges, such as a painful divorce or a child’s illness, and they have found that those who produce detailed accounts of loss are better adapted psychologically. Their narratives often strike themes of growth and learning and transformation. Importantly, the stories of the well-adapted have endings, positive resolutions of bad experiences.

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Psychotherapy is largely about personal narratives. Therapists help their clients to “re-story” their lives by finding more positive narratives for unhappy experiences. Indeed, when scientists asked former psychotherapy patients to describe how they remembered their therapeutic experience, the healthier ones told heroic stories, tales in which they bravely battled their symptoms and emerged victorious. This narrative theme of personal control was also and by far the best predictor of therapeutic success: As patients’ stories increasingly emphasized self-determination, these patients’ symptoms abated and their health improved. The stories themselves created an identity that was mature and well-adjusted.

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A preface I did for Pahoa’s New Hope feeding ministry   —

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The 1915 Diamond Head Theater is the oldest theater building in the State of Hawai’i.
More so, the Diamond Head Theatre is the third oldest continuously running community theatre in the nation operating since 1915 – See more at: http://www.diamondheadtheatre.com/#sthash.GzmPVQJ6.dpuf
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The 1919 Pahoa Akebono Theater is the oldest theater building on the island of Hawai’i.
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The 1928 Iao theater is not the oldest theater in the State of Hawai’i.

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Tamao Ishihara (Yamaguchi ken roots Japan) 1911-1985 was a primordial Jack Burns Democrat from Tamao’s produce (vegetables) background Waimea on Hawai’i Island.  Tamao, like later solon Stanley Hara (12 yrs. younger than Tamao), helped break the chokehold of the Big Five oligarchy over the economy (produce/fruits/horticulture).   Tamao held strategy/policy meetings at Tamao’s Waimea home along Mamalahoa highway that included Jack Burns & Stan Hara (along with Iku Hisaoka/Tom Toguchi/etc.).      Tamao’s immigrant dad was an alcoholic and oldest son/sib Tamao was the provider by default.    Burns envisioned Waimea as the gateway between East windward Hawai’i Island and West/leeward Hawai’i Island, anchored by a higher education university and secondarily a vocational school.    Harvey Tajiri later expanded on Burns’ vision by advocating  a  Mayo Clinic caliber medical complex as the nerve center of the whole Pacific region — anchored in Waimea.      Burns’ affiliation with Tamao included the much larger paradigm of the strategic/geographical clout of Waimea.

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The former Hawai’i island Okinawan Teruya family is about class and empathy personified.   That the Teruyas surpassed the disintegrated Fujieki family is no surprise.

 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Times_Supermarkets

http://www.timessupermarkets.com/work-at-times/

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http://www.hiattlaw.com/new/pdf/PBN%20071307.pdf

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16 Responses to We are here for a while, we busy ourselves, we accomplish things, and then we move on — and others continue the cycle. “We can’t all, and some of us don’t.”

  1. from deeply reflective sage Kolina Ana —

    Thank you for sharing this — I enjoyed the various writers’ perspectives —
    I just completed a poem for my birthday — I call it “My Ground Zero” — yes the title can be controversial but its contents
    are well meaning…
    shalom
    Kolina Ana

  2. Pingback: “Hi everyone! The one we worship was crucified by the Romans. Come follow us.” This opening line did not fit among Greco-Roman religions. Claiming that a divine figure was helplessly beaten, tortured, and gruesomely–shamefully–executed, would have

  3. Pingback: “Hi everyone! The one we worship was crucified by the Romans. Come follow us.” This opening line did not fit among Greco-Roman religions. Claiming that a divine figure was helplessly beaten, tortured, and gruesomely–shamefully executed, would have b

  4. Pingback: “Hi everyone! The one we worship was crucified by the Romans. Come follow us.” This opening line did not fit among Greco-Roman religions. Claiming that a divine figure was helplessly beaten, tortured, and gruesomely–shamefully executed, would have b

  5. Pingback: “Hi everyone! The one we worship was crucified by the Romans. Come follow us.” This opening line did not fit among Greco-Roman religions. Claiming that a divine figure was helplessly beaten, tortured, and gruesomely–shamefully executed, would have b

  6. Pingback: “Hi everyone! The one we worship was crucified by the Romans. Come follow us.” This opening line did not fit among Greco-Roman religions. Claiming that a divine figure was helplessly beaten, tortured, and gruesomely–shamefully executed, would have b

  7. Pingback: Irony, reversal, and frustration of expectations are characteristic of Jesus. Does a periscope (short saying — “turn the other cheek”) present opposites or impossibilities? If it does, it’s more likely to be authentic. For example,

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  12. Pingback: “Hi everyone! The one we worship was crucified by the Romans. Come follow us.” This opening line did not fit among Greco-Roman religions. Claiming that a divine figure was helplessly beaten, tortured, and gruesomely–shamefully executed, would have b

  13. Pingback: Irony, reversal, and frustration of expectations are characteristic of Jesus. Does a periscope (short saying — “turn the other cheek”) present opposites or impossibilities? If it does, it’s more likely to be authentic. For example,

  14. Pingback: “Hi everyone! The one we worship was crucified by the Romans. Come follow us.” This opening line did not fit among Greco-Roman religions. Claiming that a divine figure was helplessly beaten, tortured, and gruesomely–shamefully executed, would have b

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  16. Pingback: Irony, reversal, and frustration of expectations are characteristic of Jesus. Does a periscope (short saying — “turn the other cheek”) present opposites or impossibilities? If it does, it’s more likely to be authentic. For example,

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