Category Archives: Essays

Midweek Essay – Chapter 11: You Can’t Serve God and Mamon

Resource management.
Fundraising.
Donors.
Grant writing.
Budget constraints.
Allocation.

Buzz words with one thing in common.

Money.

I’ve worked in the non-profit sector. Been a part of church leadership too. We spend a lot of time following the money.

This Baltimore thing happens. People wonder why the millions spent in the neighborhood didn’t seem to help. We say that a lot about a lot of situations.

Like throwing money at a problem will solve it.

Seems we have our priorities screwed up. Mamon is our CEO.

File for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
It’s way past time we allocate more resources to prayer.

Midweek Essay – The Inner Revolution

So you were in the streets. Big deal. Did you accomplish anything? You broke some glass. You burnt some police cars. Did anything change?

I know you’re angry. I get it. But do you honestly think if things haven’t changed by now they’re going to change in our lifetime? We’ve been at this a long time. The issues are not new. I can tell you that violence isn’t the way. But I don’t really know if peaceful protest is the way either.

So you hit the streets. You raised your signs. You got the cameras to focus on you for a moment. Soon they are going to turn away and things will go back to the way they have always been. Call it fatalism. I call it reality. So what is needed is some way for the alternative reality to break through. The only way that will happen is through inner work and divine intervention.

I’m not saying we don’t have a role to play but I think that our energy and what we have put it towards is misplaced. It seems like all we are doing is reacting to situations and not operating out of pre-meditation, training, and preparation for the situations. We are letting the other side call the shots. We are letting the status quo dictate our actions.

So hit the streets my friends but do not hit each other and make sure that you have done the work so that you are ready. We know the system is broken. That is a no brainer. But the fix is going to take many lifetimes of work. Instead of those lives marching in the streets, it’s going to take those lives making choices and changes every single day. It’s easy to march in the streets and protest. It is another thing entirely and a lot more difficult to march every single day through the mine field of decisions and choices that impact our lives and the lives of people around us. That music you just have to have – what has that artist done for his/her community? It’s one thing to give voice to anger. It’s another thing to have that anger channeled into something positive. That’s a big difference. Those clothes you’re wearing. Those shoes you just have to have. Were they made in a sweat shop by somebody whose life is 5000 times worse than your own?

It’s easy to hit the streets and scream and shout but beware of the subtle erosion that occurs every day in the choices and decisions you make. You either contribute to the breaking or to the healing of society. This endless pursuit of the so-called good life is a lie and is built on the backs of the poor.

Remember that we do not fight against flesh and blood but against the principalities and powers that are behind the broken systems. It is easy to demonize others, to focus on the faults of our brothers or sisters who, yes have made mistakes and, yes are hurting others. If we are honest we will recognize that we have been part of the problem too. How do we bring about the inner change that will lead to true change? We must develop eyesight that can see past the external to the inside of the other.

Hit the streets but before you do, hit the streets of your heart. Two very simple questions: how many decisions did you make today that were truly unselfish or in service of another? How many decisions did you make today that were selfish or only for yourself? Shifting the balance is what will change the world.

By all means raise your voice. But please don’t do so out of the illusion that you’re going to make a difference. The difference has to happen on the inside. There in the silence of your honest reflection is the beginning of true societal change.

The Balance of Love

The balance of love is to do so without taking on the stuff that is not my own.

Too often have I internalized the harsh words or actions of another. I have allowed them to lay claim to me.

I cannot control the actions of another. I may influence them with what I say or do but those things must arise out of my center. They must be pre-meditated. If my response is a reaction then the other has the control.

Releasing such a hold on my heart may seem the antithesis to love but it is not. It is a difficult thing to do but the result is freedom.

It is the path to a deeper and more honest love.

Midweek Essay – Circles and Cycles: Are They the Same?

They are similar but I wonder if perhaps they are not the same.

Life is a circle, or at least a series of concentric circles moving in a positive direction. One wise decision builds upon another. A choice is made. The process spins around to reflection to be checked against the moral compass and then moves around again to another situation, wisdom gained from the experience and applied to the next decision. Continua.

Then there is a cycle, i.e. the cycle of violence, pain, etc. (Note that we don’t say “circle of violence”). So there seems to me to be a difference. Cycles are repetitive too but they spin backwards and the life moves backwards as well. A poor decision is made but the reflection is warped and so instead of knowledge gained so that the spin can be reversed the person does not learn why the choice was made and another poor decision is made. Ad nauseum.

Each has a momentum in its particular direction, creating the impetus for decisions, whether poor or sound, more likely to be made.

So some questions: how can one not allow one bad decision to derail the positive circle? What does it take to reverse the backwards trend of the negative cycle?

Midweek Essay – Information Inundation

Is it the quality or quantity of information that is the problem?

Garbage In Garbage Out

The old adage for computer geeks has been my modus operandi for most of my life. If I fill my mind with crap, then crap will out. It makes a kind of sense I guess. The “eyes are the light of the body” and “your body is a temple” motif.  To that end I have tried to guard myself against negative media, images, what not – the goal being at least in some way to minimize the inevitable erosion of personhood that seems to be the enduring gift of society in its current rendition.

I have tried multiple strategies for ingesting only “good” news and have struggled with how to engage with media and technology in positive ways – all of which have been described ad nauseam and in a multitude of formats in this blog. At times I have felt the need to forgo any news whatsoever.

This constant vigilance and filtering for myself and those I am responsible for can be exhausting. It also makes for a rather negative world view. How does one resist conformity without succumbing to the repercussions of the constant battle against conformity?

Information Overload

I tend to gorge myself on information (at least lately) whether it be of high quality or not. I read the paper every morning. I follow several sports teams on a regular basis. I read a variety of magazines. I strain my eyes at the myriad small print from a variety of news apps on my phone. As a result I feel somewhat bloated. So much so that I wonder if I am so filled up that my essence, creativity, purpose, whatever the name, has been squeezed into some dark inner corner. Of course that is assuming that my capacity is limited. I don’t know. But it does seem that it is becoming more difficult for the bright beams of clarity to break through. I wonder if such inundation is the breeding ground for the present states of chaos and confusion.

Data Sabbatical

So I am wondering for myself at least if I need to minimize the quantity of information that I am ingesting. A Sabbath, or break, as it were. Not simply for a day or so but perhaps as a life change. We do not simply live in the 24/7 news cycle. We live in the 24/7 information cycle, and it exists in layers upon layers like a 40-story building. I wind up lying beneath the crushing weight on the ground floor, struggling to breathe, let alone make sense of it all.

Often it has seemed that my response, be it a choice, decision, or artistic endeavor, has been in reaction to a particular occurrence. There is a tragedy and I feel the need to respond, to add my voice to the cacophony already reverberating off the walls everywhere.

I have always believed that there should be a response, especially from “good” people. Silence does not help the voiceless, though a meditative pause can make for a better response. But I have an inkling that the response should be something more than what often is a knee-jerk reaction from well-meaning people to a particular event. Inevitably once the furor dies down, we return to the status quo. That is until the next trigger. And then the cycle repeats itself. Are we not more than mere marionettes in a mine field?

From Reaction To Interaction To _________?

I researched some antonyms for reaction. They weren’t very encouraging. Thesaurus.com lists the following: request, question, failure, loss, cause. No wonder we choose reaction. Upon further thought, I wondered if interaction, while not an antonym per se, might be a viable alternative. Rather than react to the events, interacting and actively engaging feel like more helpful responses. But I have a sense that there is something that goes a step further. The only word that I can think of that gets at what I am trying to describe is preparation. Let me give an example.

In my opinion, one of the all time best Super Bowl halftime shows featured the band U2, not simply because they are one of my favorite bands, but because of how so in tune they were to society’s pulse at that time. This was soon after 911 and, as U2 performed their song “New York”, a large screen behind them flowed with the names of those killed in the tragedy. Unlike so many other performers at similar shows, U2 chose to shift the focus from themselves to the events occurring in the world at large. But there is something else that is intriguing. U2 released “New York” on the album “All That You Can’t Leave Behind” BEFORE 911. Somehow because of their inner work, their preparation, the band’s creative response had an almost prescience nature of the tragedy before it occurred, but even more so  provided what a society needed to mourn and to heal. In a rare positive cultural response to such prophetic wisdom, the album won 7 Grammies including Record of the Year (and U2 was invited to perform at the Super Bowl halftime show).

So the task then becomes how to maintain a sense of preparedness so that my response in some ways defines the event rather than the event defining my response. Getting back to my first question, there is something to say for both maintaining a higher quality of and lower quantity of the news and information I ingest. But more importantly, what are the disciplines and activities I need to participate in so that my response to a particular event, be it personal or global, is not a spasmodic reaction, but rather one that arises out of prescient preparation?