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All you need is love… and maybe a little wisdom

This morning I replied to a Tweet that said the important question is whether a person is “alive” before death.

I suggested that it might be more fruitful to talk about being “awake” before death because to imply that someone isn’t alive – i.e. dead – seems a bit judgmental and final.

“Awake” and “asleep” are softer terms than “alive” and “dead.” And rarely do strong proclamations or insinuations do any good in helping ourselves and others.

So afterward, I walk to my local parish. And funnily enough the theme (and wording) for today’s Mass was about the soul not dying!

It made me think…

What did Jesus really say? The Bible has so many additions, glosses, translations, contexts, versions, and deletions that sometimes we can’t be sure. Even scholars and linguists quibble over the precise meaning of biblical terms (probably partly why I never bothered to learn Hebrew and Greek).

Dead Awake

Dead Awake (Photo: Wikipedia)

After a short while I came to the tentative conclusion that we’re all different and have unique roles to play in the grand scheme of things. So even someone who seems spiritually “dead” could be doing something vital. And even someone who seems spiritually “alive” could be out to lunch on other important issues.

Instead of a “this or that” approach, I think it’s more realistic to view people as complex, evolving creations. This involves a multi-dimensional or, if you like, a multi-factorial model of consciousness instead of a binary one.

With a multi-model we would be less inclined to judge and more open to finding out the inherent strengths in others. And more importantly, we might be better disposed to love, even if the “dead” or “sleepers” irritate or harm us.

Now let me be clear. I’m not talking about being a doormat. Nor am I suggesting we don’t defend ourselves or speak out against perceived injustices. I’m just talking about making practical instead of ultimate judgments.

For sure, I steer clear of people if I have reason to believe they’re borderline and possibly violent. You get people like that in big city churches. But I don’t hate them. And I don’t think they’re hell bound or simply going to disappear at death.

Loving people who have insulted or hurt us is not always easy. It might take a while to work through our own resentment. But I find that choosing to love usually works best for everyone, provided it’s done with discernment.

Discernment is a Catholic term with two related meanings. On the one hand it means finding out God’s will for us. On the other hand, discernment is learning to recognize the good and evil influences acting on our souls. Like anything, sincere seekers tend to get better at this over time.

So what will you choose?

Related articles

 We gather together to share our faith (helpfulinspirationalblog.wordpress.com)

 Sermon: It Finally Happened, Acts 2 (grantspasschurchofchrist.com)

 Be a Good Steward (danpolecheck.info)

 New Bible Study, “Dynamic Studies in Hebrews” by Fred Scheeren, Helps Readers Who Long to Live a Life More Pleasing to God (prweb.com)

 6th Sunday of the Year: Choosing the Lord with all our heart (studyprayserve.com)

 We Were Made For Something Greater (faithandfootsteps.wordpress.com)

 God Hates Pride (challies.com)

 We’ve handed over Buhari’s death wishers to God – Community leader (vanguardngr.com)

 Overcoming Your Fear of Death (pakalertpress.com)

 Scripture Verse Of The Week ‘Philipians4 Verse 4’ (mylordmyfriend.com)


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EP Today – When teachers get creepy

eptoday-copyWay back, when Earthpages was a website instead of a blog, the main page had a feature called “EP Today.” Some of my early web pals might remember this.

I’ve decided to go back to that name for commenting on current news and general interest stories.

So here it is. Our first reinstallment of EP Today!

Today I’d like to briefly touch on the (imo) silly idea of the perfected being. The more I get into the spiritual life the more I recognize the importance of humility. Also, to think that someone is more evolved or pure than another may carry potential dangers. Some gurus and charismatic figures can really disrupt family relations.

I remember living in a small town about 100 miles out from Toronto. A group of local devotees would drive every weekend, abandoning their spouses and children, to be with a high profile NYC guru. That’s a pretty long drive to make every weekend!

At a gathering designed to welcome and orient potentially new disciples, some devotees’ family members showed up and openly spoke out. They said the guru was stealing the hearts and minds of their loved ones. I was surprised. The concerned family members seemed almost angry. And I must admit, back then at my young age, I leaned toward the side of the devotees whose manner suggested that their families just didn’t quite get it. They weren’t enlightened enough to understand…

But about 25 years later, I can empathize with the complaining family’s perspective. Imagine if your wife or mom was rushing off every weekend to be with a NYC guru? Wouldn’t you be a bit concerned? I would.

Yertle the Turtle and Other Stories

Yertle the Turtle and Other Stories (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The difficulty, as I see it, is this:

Most gurus claiming to be perfect often emanate some kind of soupy, numinous power. It’s not clear like the Holy Spirit. But it’s still there. A buzz, if you will. And sensitive but naive followers pick up on that buzz and are impressed. They’ve never encountered numinosity (spiritual power) before. Or perhaps they’ve never experienced anything better. So they believe, mistakenly, I’d say, that the guru’s ‘light’ is ultimate.

To me, true spirituality isn’t hero worship or getting spiritually drunk or stoned. Instead, it involves realizing that we carry each other, and on many levels. Healthy spirituality is not a one-way street with some pampered, contented teacher at the top, supposedly raising up disciplines who are far beneath them. No. The dynamic is multidirectional. And anyone who says otherwise is probably naive or, if they’re squatted at the top of an unhealthy guru-disciple relationship, an egotist and possibly a mind-abuser.

So many sham gurus and questionable spiritual leaders seem like bullfrogs posing as kings and queens. They rule from tiny little mudponds, like that creepy turtle in Dr. Seuss’ Yertle the Turtle. And until an oppressed turtle speaks up, the kingpin or Queen Bee will keep scamming cash and mental energy from the gullible and inexperienced below.

Would anyone in their right mind really want to have anything to do with that?

 People Theorize What It Would Be Like If Dr. Seuss Wrote Erotic Novels and Now Our Childhoods are Ruined (cheezburger.com)

 Health and Technology (forwardthinking.ashford.edu)


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Seekers’ reality check – We all need one

Looking back on my life I see a funny dynamic. Many times I thought I’d found “the answer,” either through a partner, a job, a scholarship, a religious affiliation. And usually when I have found the apparent “answer” I’ve become a bit full of myself and maybe overly enthusiastic about my new path. God and life, however, have this way of auto-correcting. Stuff happens… and what a great way to regain humility.

Deep thought

Deep thought (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Today I’m thinking it’s nice that I don’t take myself as seriously as I once did. Yes, if someone steps on my toes I will still let them know. I don’t believe God wants us to be doormats.

But at the same time, getting older means that I can appreciate all the twists and turns my life has taken, and just as importantly, how everyone else is just as “valid” as me. Are just as valid as me? Whatever. I don’t feel like checking out Grammar Girl right now. 🙂

The tweeted article spells out some of the reflections I’ve had over the past few years in this area. I think it does a good job.


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Crisis what Crisis?

Crisis? What Crisis?

Crisis? What Crisis? (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Some of you might recognize the header for this post as coming from an album by the classic rock band, Supertramp.

The album cover captured, like the best of Supertramp, the irony and alienation of the 1970s. True, the 70s had a fun and optimistic side. But there was also this nagging sense that the world was messed up and there was no turning back.

Pollution, social problems and spiritual angst are nothing new. They’ve been with us in various forms throughout history.

For me, the best approach is to try to understand our somewhat tarnished world and to not judge. The only person I can really judge is myself. And I suspect that God’s standards and expectations differ from person to person.

All fine and dandy. But as Archbishop Sheen suggests, if we just go on blindly ignoring problems, how will the world ever get better?

And this is the crux of the matter. Where should the Christian dictum of do not judge end and the modern idea of social responsibility begin?

Again, each must find his or her own solution. Some of us pray. Some of us write. And some do a bit of both.


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Can we escape interpreting the holy books – or anything else?

I’m not oblivious to the power of religious experience. When reading the Bible I’ve felt a tremendous sense of peace and certainty from time to time. But that doesn’t mean I agree with everything the Bible says. Or that I believe it all comes directly from the mind of God.

Call me irreverent if you like. But I just can’t wrap my head around the sexism, chauvinism, and violence advocated in a lot of holy books (the Bible included). True, the New Testament talks about love and peace. But at the same time it gives legitimacy to the Old Testament, which often runs counter to love and peace.

However, one thing I can say about the Bible. It’s realistic. It’s not some phony baloney sugarcoated gloss. All our human failings are found there. And maybe that’s partly why it has lasted so long. People can relate to it. It’s a human story. With God intervening and (apparently) showing us the way.


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A POST RAMADAN LESSON: TWO BOYS FORGO A ROYAL FEAST

By Rabbi Allen S. Maller

Once upon a time a King went out to hunt on a very warm day in the Fall of 2007. After a few hours he felt very hot and tired, so he decided to stop for lunch. His servants unpacked a large picnic basket they had brought with them and set up a table.

Now the King didn’t want to eat together with his servants, nor did he want to eat alone. The King told one of his servants to find someone to come and eat lunch with the King. The servant walked to a nearby road, saw two 13-year-old boys walking along, and told them that the King wanted to see them.

The boys were very surprised, and a little frightened, but they went with the King’s servant. When they arrived at the picnic, the table was set with all kinds of wonderful foods and drinks. The King told the boys to sit down next to him and eat. The boys sat down next to the King, but they did not eat.

After a few minutes the King said, “Why are you not eating? My food is prepared by the best cook in the Kingdom. It is the best tasting food in the country. Doesn’t it look good to you”
“It looks great, and I am sure it is the best food I will ever taste,” answered one boy, “but I can’t eat it.”

“Did you just finish eating lunch? If so you do not have to eat a whole meal, just have some of these great deserts” said the King.

The other boy replied, “Actually we did not eat lunch today, but we cannot eat anything, not even one of those really good looking chocolate covered candies.”

The King was surprised and asked, “Are you sick? Is that why you have lost your appetite?”
“No,” said the boys, “We are not sick and we haven’t lost our appetites.”

“Then why are you not hungry?” asked the King.
“But we are hungry” said one boy, and his friend added, “Neither of us ate lunch, and I did not eat breakfast. We are very, very hungry.”

The King looked bewildered and shouted, “Then why don’t you eat since both of you are hungry and the food is delicious?”

“Because this month is Ramadan* and I am a Muslim” said one boy. The other boy nodded and said, “And today is Yom Kippur* and I am Jewish.”

The King was astonished and said, “Why shouldn’t you enjoy yourselves? This is the best tasting food you will ever eat and you are hungry.”

“That is true, but that makes it even more important for us to fast,” answered the boys. “It is easy not to eat food you do not like. The test of a person’s self-control is best when the temptation is greatest.”

“Do you think God cares if you eat or not? Go ahead and eat, I will not tell anyone, especially your parents.”

Both boys said, “No thanks. Even if you don’t tell anyone else, we will know that we failed to live up to our religious duties to God.”

The King thought for a moment and then asked the Muslim boy why the Muslim God made Muslims fast for a whole month while the Jewish God only required one day of fasting.
The Muslim boy answered, “Muslims fast on Ramadan because that is the month that Prophet Muhammad received the first verses of the Holy Qur’an. Fasting brings us closer to God, inspires us to seek to reconcile with our adversaries, and stimulates us to give charity to the hungry.

Jews praying in the Synagogue on Yom Kippur. (...

Jews praying in the Synagogue on Yom Kippur. (1878 painting by Maurycy Gottlieb) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Jews fast for one day because that is what the Torah requires of them. There is only one God. Jews and Muslims obey the same God, but God asks each religious community to do different things. God judges us according to how good we are in our own religion, not according to somebody else’s religion.

The Holy Qur’an in Surah 5, Verse 48, says: “If Allah had so willed, He could have made humans a single people, but He tests you in what He has revealed to you, so strive to compete in all virtues.”
My father says that this is one of the most important teachings of the Qur’an for both Muslims and everyone else in today’s world. Muslims fast everyday for the whole month of Ramadan, but only from sunrise to sunset. We can eat dinner after sunset and breakfast before sunrise. Jews have to go without food or drink for a full 24 hours on Yom Kippur. Each community must be faithful to its own religion.”

The King asked the Jewish boy, “What is Yom Kippur?”

“Yom Kippur teaches us that we must improve ourselves each year by changing some of our bad habits or behavior. We must admit we have done bad things and hurt people. We have to go face the people we hurt and make peace with them. This is not easy to do.

My father says that to improve oneself takes lots of self-discipline. Fasting is good training in one of the most basic and difficult self-disciplines; dieting. It is easy to eat food that tastes good. But to limit yourself by restricting your diet every day, and not eating at all on Yom Kippur, is a real challenge and helps Jews improve their self-control and spiritual self-discipline.

All faithful Jews who are 13 years or older, are commanded by God to fast on Yom Kippur, so I have not eaten since dinner last night. I knew fasting 24 hours on Yom Kippur would be a test of my will power, and my commitment to be a faithful Jew, but I never thought I’d be challenged by being tempted to eat a meal fit for a King.”

The King was very impressed by what the boys said. He was even more impressed by the boys’ self-discipline and commitment to be faithful to their own religious teachings. So the King told the boys to come to the palace the next evening, along with their entire family, and have dinner with the King and the Queen. And that is what they did.

One year, the King also tried to fast on Yom Kippur, but he was only able to fast until 4 pm when he gave up, saying “I couldn’t do it for even one day. I guess if you don’t start when you are young it is a lot harder than it sounds.”

*Ramadan: Both the Jewish and the Muslim calendars are based on the moon; so the dates of Muslim and Jewish holidays change each year in terms of the solar calendar, The Jewish calendar is connected to the solar calendar so the changes are not cumulative. The Muslim calendar’s changes are cumulative so Ramadan falls 11 days earlier every year. In every generation (31-31 years), Yom Kippur and Ramadan coincide at least 2 or 3 times; and September 22, 2007 was the third year in a row that Yom Kippur coincided with Ramadan.

*Yom Kippur: The Day of Atonement, the last day of the ten days of Awe during which Jews examine their hearts and minds and seek out people they think they have hurt or ignored during the last year to make amends and reconcile. God will forgive their sins when they have both reconciled with others, and reformed themselves to not repeat their bad behavior.

Rabbi Maller’s web site is: rabbimaller.com


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A Brief Guide to African-American Worship

Martin Luther King, Jr.

Martin Luther King, Jr. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

By Dr Ty King

While the diverse cultures of the Christian world have their distinctive and beautiful approaches of worshipping, there’s something distinctively enriching regarding African-American Christian worship. We trust it exemplifies principal outlines of thought & experience that do much to praise it to Christians far and wide.

Anyone who has noticed or partaken in an Afro-American Christian worship facility will agree that there’s an indisputable dissimilarity between the manner American Blacks worship & the worship of other ethnic and racial groups. Embedded in their distinctive social past in America, the similarity is more one of function & experience in comparison to proof that one approach is better to another.

The custom of Afro-American worshipping together persisted to progress throughout the late nineteenth century and carries on to till date in spite of the turn down of segregationist approaches and the standard acceptability of integrated devotion. African American Churches in Charlotte, NC have long been the hubs of communities, serving as school locations in the early years following the Civil War, hosting social welfare functions, like offering help for the poor, and going on to established schools, or prison and orphanage ministeries. Consequently, black churches have promoted influential community organizations and offered spiritual & political leadership, especially throughout the civil rights movement.

Tasks of Afro-American worship:

With no posturing to being comprehensive, the following are some modern tasks of Afro-American worship and it must carry on:

  • To reproduce the collective experience of Afro-Americans without lessening the critical focus of worship admiration of & for divinity.
  • To contain inventive tension its unmistakable emphasis on fixing the injustices & disproportion in this globe with eschatological focal point on the life to come.
  • To find a balance between impulsiveness and order
  • To be commemorative without surrendering to emotionalism.
  • To empower worship and rejoice Christ.

Afro-American worship has played an important part in the Afro-American society. Slaves who didn’t discard their African spiritual legacy came to admit the God of their masters, devoting God initially in the Invisible Institution and afterward in their free cathedrals.

There was revised Christianity exceptionally suited to fulfill the requirements of their existential circumstance. A merriment of God’s redemptive deeds in history and on their behalf, their devotion offered them with pastoral attention, freedom, and empowerment. Music, prayer and the sermonized words are amongst the rudiments of their devotion, meant to carry on to be a “Balm in Gilead” for the rest of the journey.

Source: A Brief Guide to African-American Worship