Dear friends, I am not writing you a new command but an old one, which you have had since the beginning. This old command is the message you have heard. Yet I am writing you a new command; its truth is seen in him and in you, because the darkness is passing and the true light is already shining (1 John 2:7-8)
John speaks here about a commandment which is at one and the same time an old commandment and a new commandment. What is the old commandment of which John speaks? It was old in the sense that it is already there in the Old Testament. In Leviticus 19:18 the Law says, "Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself." The commandment already existed in ancient Law. It was old in the sense that this was not the first time that John's hearers had heard it.
But this commandment was new in that it had been raised to a completely new standard in the life and teachings of Jesus Christ. It could be argued that people did not really know what unconditional love was until they saw it in Jesus. A hamburger can become a new thing to a person when they taste it after it has been prepared by a master chef. A piece of music can become a new thing when orchestrated by a master conductor. An old thing can become a new experience in the hands of a master. And love became new in Jesus Christ.
In Jesus love became new in the extent to which it reached. In Jesus love reached out to the sinner and the outcast. Love became new in Jesus because He widened its boundaries until there were none outside its embrace. In Jesus love became new in the lengths to which it would go. Nothing anyone could ever do to Him could turn Jesus' love to hate. He could even pray for the mercy of God on those who were nailing him to the Cross.
In Jesus love reached a standard which it had never reached before, and it is by that standard that Christians far and wide are commanded to follow.
Hope is an inside job. In order to keep hope alive, it's extremely important that we monitor what we allow ourselves to see, hear and feel, especially in regards to the media. Because our subconscious minds accept as real not only our personal experiences but also those we watch or imagine vividly, it's up to us to choose mindfully and wisely what we watch and read.
Because images imprint deeply, the alarming pictures and commentary favored by the media can act as an emotional acid, etching the pain and suffering we witness into our own psyches. Such images can pull the plug on our reserves of hope. Limiting your exposure to sensationalism of all kinds is wise. Allow yourself to be as informed as you feel the need but do not allow yourself to become deformed by overexposure.
Hope is so important because it's the proverbial light at the end of any dark tunnel encountered. Hope is the ballast that keeps you moving forward and helps you to continue to believe in beauty, love, and survival, even when your personal waters are incredibly rough. With hope, it is easier to keep your head above water while navigating stormy seas. Hope has the power to make everyday life much brighter and more joyful.
But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint (Isaiah 40:31).
~ Sue Patton Thoele
My Cherokee grandpa taught me this lesson when I was seven. He took me to a fishing hole and asked me to throw a rock into the pond. He asked me what I saw, and I replied that I saw a splash. He asked me what else I saw, and I said a circle of water and another circle and another circle. He then told me that every person was responsible for the kind of splash they made in the world and that the splash would touch many other circles, creating a ripple effect.
I sat there and watched the water until he asked me to notice the muddy bank where we were sitting. He pointed out that one of the circular waves made by my rock was lapping at my feet, having found its way back to me. Then he told me that we all need to be careful of the kinds of splashes we make in the world, because the waves we create will always come back to us. If those splashes were hurtful, we will not welcome them back, but if the splash and the waves were made from goodness, we will be happy to see them come home.
The teachings of all major religions on our planet show us these same truths. They ask us to be loving, to respect one another, and to become influences for good. Let us go forth in the world and make a good splash!
~ Jamie Sams
Then said a rich man, "Speak to us of Giving." And he answered: You give but little when you give of your possessions. It is when you give of yourself that you truly give. For what are your possessions but things you keep and guard for fear you may need them tomorrow? And tomorrow, what shall tomorrow bring to the over-prudent dog burying bones in the trackless sand as he follows the pilgrims to the holy city? And what is fear of need but need itself? Is not dread of thirst when your well is full, thirst that is unquenchable?
There are those who give little of the much which they have - and they give it for recognition and their hidden desire makes their gifts unwholesome. And there are those who have little and give it all. These are the believers in life and the bounty of life, and their coffer is never empty. There are those who give with joy, and that joy is their reward. And there are those who give with pain, and that pain is their baptism.
And there are those who give and know not pain in giving, nor do they seek joy, nor give with mindfulness of virtue; They give as in yonder valley the myrtle breathes its fragrance into space. Though the hands of such as these God speaks, and from behind their eyes He smiles upon the earth. It is well to give when asked, but it is better to give unasked, through understanding.
~ Khalil Gibran
Choose the way of life. Choose the way of love. Choose the way of caring. Choose the way of hope. Choose the way of belief in tomorrow. Choose the way of trusting. Choose the way of goodness. It's up to you. It's your choice. You can also choose despair. You can also choose misery. You can also choose making life uncomfortable for other people. You can also choose bigotry.
But what for? It doesn't make sense. It's only self-flagellation. But I caution you that if you decide to move in the direction of taking responsibility for your life, it is not going to be easy, and you are going to have to risk again. Risk: the key to change.
Don't spend all of your precious time asking "Why isn't the world a better place?" It will only be time wasted. The question to ask is 'How can I make it better?' To that there is an answer.
~ Leo Buscaglia
Spend a day in slow motion. Plan ahead and really dedicate a whole day to moving in slow motion. When you're moving about your house, going to work, eating, and so on, slow. . . down. Whatever your speed, concentrate on cutting it in half.
Moving in slow motion helps us counter-balance all the times we hurried and pushed and strained and rushed. Some of us operate more or less in permanent fight-or-flight mode. We struggle with one after another urgency or deadline until everything becomes a race to beat the clock. Even a simple trip to a hair-styling appointment becomes a race. This is not living. This is not promoting our health, well-being, and connection to God. We've let ourselves be dominated by false urgency of circumstance, losing our center and natural tempo.
Many of us are lost in a whirlwind of activity, speeding along at full throttle, just skimming the surface of life. At this breakneck speed, it is easy to miss the signs and scenery along the way that are always straining outside ourselves on some distant destination. We are toddlers in this segment of spirituality. We must learn to take one step at a time in slow motion while maintaining attention on God.
~ Michael Goddart
Forgiveness is the most powerful thing that you can do for your physiology and your spirituality, and it remains one of the least attractive things to us, largely because our egos rule so unequivocally. To forgive is somehow associated with saying that it is all right, that we accept the evil deed. But this is not forgiveness.
Forgiveness means that you fill yourself with love and you radiate that love outward and refuse to hang onto the venom or hatred that was engendered by the behaviors that caused the wounds. Forgiveness is a spiritual act of love for conscious and it sends a message to everyone, including yourself, that you prefer love over bitterness.
Forgiveness means letting go of the language of blame and self-pity and no longer leading with one's wounds and injuries from the past. It means privately forgiving and not asking anyone else to understand. It means leaving behind the eye-for-an-eye attitude that only makes for more pain and the need for more revenge, and replacing it with an attitude of love and forgiveness.
"If we can forgive everyone, regardless of what he or she may have done, we nourish the soul and allow our whole being to feel good. To hold a grudge against anyone is like carrying the devil on your shoulders. It is our willingness to forgive and forget that casts away such a burden and brings light into our hearts, freeing us from many ill feelings against our fellow human beings," Sydney Banks.
Dr. Wayne W. Dyer
Beggarly Heart by Rabindranath Tagore
When the heart is hard and parched up,
come upon me with a shower of mercy.
When grace is lost from life,
come with a burst of song.
When tumultuous work raises its din
on all sides shutting me out from beyond,
come to me, my lord of silence,
with thy peace and rest.
When my beggarly heart sits crouched,
shut up in a corner, break open the door,
my king, and come with the ceremony of a king.
When desire blinds the mind with delusion
and dust, O thou holy one, thou wakeful,
come with thy light and thy thunder
The impulse frequently arises in me to squeeze another this or another that into this moment. Just this phone call, just stopping off here on my way there. Never mind that it might be in the opposite direction. I've learned to identify this impulse and mistrust it. I work hard at saying no to it. I like to practice voluntary simplicity to counter such impulses and make sure nourishment comes at a deep level. It involves intentionally doing only one thing at a time and making sure I am here for it. Many occasions present themselves: taking a walk, for instance, or spending a few moments with the dog in which I am really with the dog. Voluntary simplicity means going fewer places in one day rather than more, seeing less so I can see more, doing less so I can do more, acquiring less so I can have more. It all ties in.
It's not a real option for me as a father of young children, a breadwinner, a husband, an oldest son to my parents, a person who cares deeply about his work to go off to one Walden Pond or another and sit under a tree for a few years, listening to the grass grow and the seasons change, much as the impulse beckons at times. But within the organized chaos and complexity of family life and work, with all their demands and responsibilities, frustrations and unsurpassed gifts, there is ample opportunity for choosing simplicity in small ways.
A commitment to simplicity in the midst of the world is a delicate balancing act. It is always in need of returning, further inquiry, attention. But I find the notion of voluntary simplicity keeps me mindful of what is important. You don't get to control it all. But choosing simplicity whenever possible adds to life an element of deepest freedom which so easily eludes us, and many opportunities to discover that less may actually be more.
~ Jon Kabat-Zinn
Over the years I have come to believe that life is full of un-chosen circumstances, that being human has to do with the growth of our individual consciousness and with it, responsibilities for choice. Pain and joy both come with life. I believe that how we respond to what happens to us and around us shapes who we become and has to do with the psyche or the soul's growth.
Now that I am in my fifth decade, I can look back and say that the hardest and darkest times in my life led me deeper and farther along my spiritual path. At the same time I am not at all sure that, at least in this life, such is the case for everyone, especially the very young who are abused or who arrive in this world innately handicapped.
It has not been the difficult times, however, that most shaped my spiritual life, but the times that were "sacramental"—situations that were imbued with grace, sacred moments in which I felt the presence of God or felt connected to the universe. Or those times I was in nature or at a sacred site, and felt myself enter a sacred place, or have a sacred meeting, a soul-to-soul communion with another person. These are the experiences that have really mattered, the ones that changed me—the spiritual experiences that led me to what I am doing with my life. I directly felt the presence of divinity, and knew it.
~ Jean Shinoda Bolen
The mind of love brings peace, joy, and happiness to ourselves and others. Sound and light have the ability to penetrate everywhere, and love and compassion can do the same. But if our love is only a kind of imagination, then it is not likely to have any real effect. It is in the midst of our daily life and in our actual contact with others that we can know whether our mind of love is really present and how stable it is. If love is real, it will be evident in our daily life, in the way we relate with people and the world.
The source of love is deep in us, and we can help others realize a lot of happiness. One word, one action, or one thought can reduce another person's suffering and bring him or her joy. One word can give comfort and confidence, destroy doubt, help someone avoid a mistake, reconcile a conflict, or open the door to liberation. One action can save a person's life or help him or her take advantage of a rare opportunity. One thought can do the same, because thoughts always lead to words and actions.
If love is in our heart, every thought, word, and deed can bring about a miracle. Because understanding is the very foundation of love, words and actions that emerge from our love are always helpful.
~ Thich Nhat Hanh
What lifts your spirit and allows you to overcome difficulties? The answer, in part, is very simple: Encouragement. One key element which nurtures encouragement is to stop being judgmental. Watch a baby learn to crawl. Watch a toddler learn to walk. Watch someone learn to play ball again after surgery for a brain tumor, and you will see how important encouragement is.
The important thing isn't the grade your son got; it's the effort he put out. It isn't whether your daughter hit a home run; it's that she went up to the plate and took a swing. The effort is what matters, because as long as we are trying we are fulfilling our mission. "Examine me, O Lord, and try me," the Psalmist wrote. . . .
Our children are much better than they think. What kind of mirror do we hold up to them? Do we point out all their faults and problems, or do we point out their beauty and successes? What do you say to your kids when they walk out the door? Stand up straight? Fix your pants? Did you forget your lunch or your books? Do you ever say, "You're a beautiful person. God and I are proud of you."
Remember: An overdose of love has no recorded adverse side effects.
~ Bernie Siegel
Fear is everywhere—in our culture, in our institutions, in our students, in ourselves—and it cuts us off from everything. Surrounded and invaded by fear, how can we transcend it and reconnect with reality for the sake of teaching and learning? The only path I know that might take us in that direction is the one marked "spiritual."
Fear is so fundamental to the human condition that all the great spiritual traditions originate in an effort to overcome its effects on our lives. With different words, they all proclaim the same core message: "Be not afraid." Though the traditions vary widely in the ways they propose to take us beyond fear, all hold out the same hope: we can escape fear's paralysis and enter a state of grace where encounters with otherness will not threaten us but will enrich our work and our lives.
It is important to note with care what that core teaching does and does not say. "Be not afraid" does not say that we should not have fears—and if it did, we could dismiss it as an impossible counsel of perfection. Instead, it says that we do not need to be our fears, quite a different proposition.
~ Parker J. Palmer
Because I Could not Stop for Death by Emily Dickinson
Because I could not stop for Death
He kindly stopped for me
The Carriage held but just Ourselves
We slowly drove, he knew no haste
And I had put away
My labor and my leisure too,
For his civility.
We passed the School, where Children strove
At recess in the ring
We passed the fields of gazing grain
We passed the setting sun.
Or rather, he passed us
The dews drew quivering and chill
For only Gossamer, my gown
My tippet only tulle.
We paused before a house that seemed
A swelling of the GROUND
The roof was scarcely visible
The cornice in the ground.
Since then 'tis centuries and yet
Feels shorter than the DAY
I first surmised the horses' heads
Were toward eternity.
Kindness does not stop with us; we can extend it outward from ourselves, like the ripples on a pond, toward our family, friends, and loved ones. This is relatively natural and effortless. But for loving kindness to be genuine, it cannot just end with the people we know and like; it has to go further, toward those we do not know and even do not like. This includes people we may be having a hard time with, someone with whom communication is difficult, where negative issues have arisen that are pulling the relationship apart, where there is anger, resentment, or dislike.
When we are affected by someone being hostile, dismissive, critical, or hurtful, then it is often because there is a hook in us for that negativity to grab hold of, a place where it can land that triggers all our hidden feelings of unworthiness, insecurity, doubt, even self-hate. However, when we extend kindness toward such a person, as we can in meditation, an extraordinary thing happens: The landing place, or the hook within, begins to dissolve. There is no place for the negativity to take hold.
The negative reactions that arise within us during moments of discord or disagreement cause continued conflict. Extending kindness toward the adversary is, therefore, really extending it toward ourselves, as it releases the inner pain and puts us into a more balanced place.
~ Ed and Deb Shapiro
When we were born, we were programmed perfect. We had a natural tendency to focus on love. Our imaginations were creative and flourishing, and we knew how to use them. We were connected to a world much richer than the one we connect to now, a world full of fascination and a sense of the miraculous. So what happened? Why is it that we reached a certain age, looked around, and the charm was gone?
Because we were taught to focus elsewhere. We were taught to focus elsewhere. We were taught to think unnaturally. We were taught a very bad philosophy, a way of looking at the world that contradicts who we are.
We were taught to think thoughts like competition, struggle, sickness, finite resources, limitation, guilt, bad, death, scarcity, and loss. We began to think these things, and so we began to know them. We were taught that things like grades, being good enough, money, and doing things the right way, are more important than love. We were taught that we're separate from other people, that we have to compete to get ahead, that we're not quite good enough the way we are. We were taught to see the world the way that others had come to see it. It's as though, as soon as we got here, we were given a sleeping pill.
The thinking of the world, which is not based on love, began pounding in our ears the moment we hit shore. Love is what we were born with. Fear is what we learned here. The spiritual journey is the relinquishment, or unlearning, of fear and the acceptance of love back into our hearts. Love is the essential existential fact. It is our ultimate reality and our purpose on earth. To be consciously aware of it, to experience love in ourselves and others, is the meaning of life.
~ Marianne Williamson
Often one of the stumbling blocks to living a simpler life is our inability or unwillingness to change how we play some of the games that got us into these complicated lives in the first place. If you've spent a lot of years not knowing what you really want to do, either in terms of your career or in terms of your personal, social, civic, or family life, it can seem like an impossible task to stop what you've been doing—or at least slow down for a bit—and figure it out. It often seems easier to keep on doing things we don't want to do. We continue doing things we almost want to do, or we continue doing things the way they have always been done simply because it is convenient.
So our lives get dissipated away by a social engagement here, a luncheon there, an evening of television here, or the habit of working evenings or weekends or both on projects that we don't have all that much interest in. And the things we really want to do, in our heart of hearts, get put on the back burner. One of the things simplifying your life will do is free up time for you to figure out what really matters to you, and then enable you to arrange your time so you can do it.
~ Elaine St. James
Gratitude can be transformative. When we offer thanks to God or to another human being, gratitude gifts us with renewal, reflection, reconnection. Gratitude bestows reverence, allowing us to encounter everyday epiphanies, those transcendent moments of awe that change forever how we experience life (is it abundant or is it lacking?) and the world (is it friendly or is it hostile?). Once we accept that abundance and lack are parallel realities and that each day we choose--consciously or unconsciously--which world we will inhabit, a deep inner shift in our reality occurs. We discover the sacred in the ordinary and we realize that every day is literally a gift. How we conduct our daily round, how we celebrate it, cherish it, and consecrate it is how we express our thankfulness to the Giver of all good.
Gratitude holds us together even as we're falling apart. Ironically, gratitude's most powerful mysteries are often revealed when we are struggling in the midst of personal turmoil. When we stumble in the darkness, rage in anger, hurl faith across the room, abandon all hope. While we cry ourselves to sleep, gratitude waits patiently to console and reassure us; there is a landscape larger than the one we can see.
~ Sarah Ban Breathnach
Our feelings play a very important part in directing all of our thoughts and actions. In us, there is a river of feelings, in which every drop of water is a different feeling, and each feeling relies on all the others for its existence. To observe it, we just sit on the bank of the river and identify each feeling as it surfaces, flows by, and disappears.
Mindful observation is based on the principle of "non-duality": our feeling is not separate from us or caused merely by something outside us; our feeling is us, and for the moment we are that feeling.
We are neither drowned in nor terrorized by the feeling, nor do we reject it. Our attitude of not clinging to or rejecting our feelings is the attitude of letting go, an important part of meditation practice. If we face our unpleasant feelings with care, affection, and nonviolence, we can transform them into the kind of energy that is healthy and has the capacity to nourish us.
~ Thich Nhat Hanh
Perhaps the most important thing we bring to another person is the silence in us. Not the sort of silence that is filled with unspoken criticism or hard withdrawal. The sort of silence that is a place of refuge, of rest, of acceptance of someone as they are. We are all hungry for this other silence. It is hard to find. In its presence we can remember something beyond the moment, a strength on which to build a life. Silence is a place of great power and healing. Silence is God's lap.
Many things grow the silence in us, among them simply growing older. We may then become more a refuge than a rescuer, a witness to the process of life and the wisdom of acceptance. Taking refuge does not mean hiding from life. It means finding a place of strength, the capacity to live the life we have been given with greater courage and sometimes even with gratitude.
~ Rachel Naomi Remen
Jason E. Royle
Welcome to my blog. I'm an open-minded theologian committed to Christ-like compassion & understanding.
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