Earth life is slow

We are creatures of Earth; our life is part of the life of the Earth, and we draw our nourishment from it just as plants and animals do. Earth life is slow; autumn and winter are as essential to it as spring and summer, and rest is as essential as motion.

-Bertrand Russell, The Conquest of Happiness

It is winter, the days are dark, and nature does not offer up the comfort of warmth. But instead of complaining or decrying this, we can accept it as a part of the creative cycle.

Our bodies need rest. So do our minds. This time of year we can take more time for that by recognizing that everything has a time and place and season. Trust that you will progress and grow, when it is the right time. Spring brings energy, transition, a pushing outward. Winter brings quiet, inner reflection, an evening gathering with friends that is a natural response to the short days, and finally, sleep.

Let the bare trees of this season remind us that we are also needing to look at the bare facts of ourselves, the naked truth of who we are. That will be the starting point for all our love and all our work in the year to come.


Grace, Wellspring and Compass

‘Tis grace shall bring me home.         –Amazing Grace, Spiritual 

My Lutheran heritage brought me in contact with a theological tradition that talks about grace. We defined it as undeserved love. It was one of the things that demarcated Protestant faith—no penance, praying rosaries, no elaborate ecclesiastical hierarchy. Just grace, plain and simple, accessible to all, given to all, accepted by faith.

But it went deeper than that. It was a whole outlook on life, a way of being that gave forgiveness and compassion because you yourself were forgiven and deeply loved. I felt this from my parents. I was taught to look for it in scripture. I sang about it in church, and later, taught it from the pulpit.

Grace is a powerful thing. As a concept, its theological roots run deep, and it can be found across religions. As a practice, it is a both a spiritual wellspring from which to draw and a moral compass for how to treat others.

Christians anchor God’s grace in the person and work of Jesus. The importance of the crucifixion story, as I now understand it, is as an expression of a universal consciousness of grace as lived out in a singular life, in a particular place and time, and how that life and that time can be in a way redemptive for us all.

There is much to be gleaned from the Bible when it is read from the lens of grace. If by meditating on the Word we find grace, we are the better for it. When the Bible is not read from a place of grace, and for a message of grace, it is easily subsumed by fundamentalism and fearful, protectionist dogma.

But more than that: it needs to be said that the Bible and the story of Jesus are not the only narratives of grace. In a time that seems to be ruled by the grace-less (in every possible sense of the word), we need as many narratives of grace as we can find. I’m looking for them, from all sources of religious thought, as well as from atheist and non-believers.


What are your stories of grace? Take a moment and share one here. Especially if it involves a character from a non-Christian background or source, I’m deeply interested in hearing that story now.


Clinton, The Rational Choice

So I feel the need, as the final days approach, to say my piece about Hillary Clinton, and why she is the RATIONAL choice. I want to stay away from personal feelings here, and stand on the ground that there are actually certain facts that are verifiable.

1. Her record as a Senator is exemplary. She contributed to pass many bills and in doing so won over people on the other side like John McCain and Orrin Hatch. She could have adopted a more confrontational or grandstanding style, but she put her head down and worked. I challenge you to find a non-partisan report of her record as a senator and study it, to see what she actually did.
2. She’s demonstrated willingness to do the humble thing and reach out. There is actual recorded evidence of this, that’s not just someone’s opinion. She’s actually much better at it than Obama, who tended to be an army of one, “you come to me” style. And clearly better than Trump, who only talks of destroying political enemies and even jailing them.
3. For anyone who believes in hard work and earning your way, Clinton is again the logical choice. Since the time Bill Clinton left office, she has done nothing but earn her stripes working as a public servant. You know well enough that there are lots of people out there who would malign you in an instant just because they disagreed with you, without looking thoroughly at what you actually DID. Whereas Trump, the more you look at what he actually DID, the less he looks like a public servant. He defrauds people in business, he is a tax evader, he gambles other people’s money. That’s not honest, hard work! He represents the opposite of those values: elitist control of other people, not doing work yourself.
4. The evidence and the record point to competence in the public sector, knowledge of how it works, including on the global stage, for Clinton, not Trump. You may not agree with the policies Clinton carried out under Obama, but the fact is she carried out what the president wanted, again putting her head down and working for a former political rival. That’s something we haven’t seen practically since the Lincoln administration! That shows diplomacy and humility combined with shrewd strength, in actuality a rare combination of skill set and character.
5. Hillary Clinton knows business. She has been roundly criticized on the left, right, and center for her familiarity and connection to Wall Street. But look: both politicians and business people at every level know that you need to get to know each other and do each other favors otherwise no consensus is ever reached about anything. She knows how to do that, how to pull the levers. You may not like that she is shrewd and that the Clintons know how to pull in money. But there’s always a way to paint someone as evil. The reality is that real estate people in NYC won’t touch Trump because of his business failings, and his well-known lack of behaving as a respectable business person, and lack of interest in really listening to or working with anyone. Clinton is the rational choice for the businessperson, not Trump.
6. A great deal of the negativity surrounding Clinton, having to do with emails, Benghazi, being a public defender in a rape case, attacking women who came after Bill, etc., may have some merit, but I believe a large portion of it has been overblown. It is political theater. When you look up the details, you don’t come away with a surefire “she’s a criminal” conclusion that the hard right seems to. Chanting “lock her up” and talking about impeachment even before the election takes place? While the other candidate may actually go to jail for fraud, or child sexual molestation? That’s simply not rational.
Standing on the rational choice, I stand for Clinton.

A Lot Less To Worry About

A Master trusts that all his needs will be met at the appropriate time.

This is truly a hard one for me.

Often I distrust humanity, distrust the universe, distrust life, that it has anything in store for me, that it aims to provide for me in any way. This is probably because I have had to scrape pennies together to survive. This is probably also because I did not get some of my emotional needs met by belief in God, and had to look elsewhere.

I read a lot of marketing literature. People who are entrepreneurs tend to be very mistrustful of others who don’t work, or whom they perceive as lazy or making different choices.

I’ve heard it called “constructive paranoia”, the idea that a bit of worry about letting down your hair is a good thing, because it keeps you from becoming complacent. It’s a useful trait. But it also can veer into the cruelly judgmental.

I think this stems from a basic lack of trust in the Being of things. When we think that the source of our survival, prosperity, and safety comes from our own hard work and our own choices, we place ourselves at the absolute epicenter. Then this equation rules: “If I don’t X, then I won’t get Y .”

If I don’t work, I will not eat. If I don’t get paid, I will lose my house. If I don’t stay on high alert at all times, I will miss an email, drop a ball, which will lead to losing my job, or my relationships. People won’t value me, they will stop paying attention…and my needs won’t get met.

What if our needs are met by a source other than our own choices?

Do our actions result in outcomes or are they already an outcome of other causes? If the latter, we have a lot less to worry about.

Can we execute tasks, and relate to other people, not out of worry or distrust, but out of a feeling of participation in the whole? If so, we have a lot less to worry about.

Perhaps our needs are being met through our work, rather than as a result of our work.

We still need to act, but the action takes place from a different starting point. For some this starting point is God. His grace, mercy, forgiveness, and love. Others find these qualities in the larger consciousness, in the great mystery of the universe itself.

Perhaps the universe (God) arrives to meet our needs when we allow it (him) space in which to do so. Such allowing is called trust.

A Master trusts that all his needs will be met at the appropriate time.

I take a deep breath, and let that one sink in.


Quote from Mastery by Glenn Berkenkamp