What is Life Asking?

Quite often my blog topics come from whatever I happen to be reading. Today, I am faced with several challenging ideas that came out of the three books that comprise my morning read. The one I choose today is Robert C. Leslie’s discussion of Peter in is book Jesus and Logotherapy, a reflection on gospel stories in the light of Viktor Frankl’s teachings on psychotherapy. Because he shared in the mission of Jesus, Peter is one of the characters in my upcoming book, The Memorial of Jesus, I can’t resist sharing Leslie’s portrayal here.

Leslie writes: “Whatever one makes of Peter’s attempts at walking on water, or of his attempted defense of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, he is portrayed as a man of quick emotions whose heart is in the right place but whose actions are often inappropriate.” Biblical scholars would agree. Leslie suggests that Peter’s problem was that he lacked a clear sense of mission. Teaching others about Jesus’ Kingdom of God is a mission all of the apostles shared, but Leslie suggests that one needs a personal mission that gives meaning to one’s own life.

Frankl, in talking to a young artist on the verge of a complete schizophrenic break, said to her, “You cannot reconstruct your life without a goal in life, confronting and challenging you…Isn’t there a goal, an artistic assignment beckoning you? Are there not  many things fermenting  in you, unformed artistic works, undrawn drawings waiting for their creation, waiting to be produced by you?
…if you don’t create them, they will remain forever uncreated.”

What Leslie suggests is that Frankl advocates not asking what can be expected from life but, instead, what life expects of man. Frankle wrote while in the concentration camp: “We need to stop asking about the meaning of life, and instead to think of ourselves as those who were being questioned by life – daily and hourly. Our answer must consist, not in talk and meditation, but in right action and right conduct. Life ultimately means taking the responsibility to find the right answers to its problems and so fulfill the tasks which it constantly sets for each individual.”

I hear often from Christians that Peter is their favorite New Testament character because of his apparent failures. One thing you can say about him is that he never let doing the right thing stop him from acting. I can imagine that, as the little mission group went  about Galilee, there were several messes he left for others to clean up. But this did not deter Jesus. He kept Peter in the fold. Peter just needed to learn the difference between finding mission outside himself and finding the mission within him. He needed to ask not what God wants from us but what God asks from Peter. In the end, the post-resurrection Jesus told Peter that God wanted only one thing, “Feed my sheep.”

We know that Peter served as a leader as the unfolding of the Kingdom continued after Jesus left. Leslie brings together Peter’s failures with his successes this way: “Peter discovered that failure was not the last word. Even though he could not undo the act of denial, he could redeem his past by changing himself….Real repentance is indicated by a changed life.”

Leslie goes on to comment on the world we live in to day. “Many in our day are confused by the requirements of success. Taught by our culture that ‘anything worth doing is worth doing well,’ many are easily trapped into the conclusion that the only permissible outcome is a successful one.”

I believe that failure (in the world’s eyes) is simply part of learning like the toddler falling in its attempt to walk. Learning to walk is what all creatures with legs must learn to do. But once one learns, one needs to ask, “What is life asking of me?”

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Spring Has Come to Minnesota

Spring has finally descended upon Minnesota. I think it just may be here to stay.

For two days now I have been able to walk the driveway without my boots on.

Bernie and I have eaten two suppers in our screened porch.

Twice I did my daily stretching and quiet time took on the deck with my face to the sun.

The snowy spots will likely be gone by the end of the day and the next moisture coming from the sky will be rain.

Thunder, please, Mother. It wakes up the green.

 

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Finding Balance in the World of Politics


One year ago today, I posted on Facebook: “I can’t really read anything political any more. Anything! The world will have to go on without me for a while.”

I am reading political news once again. I don’t know when I started after that day when I was so discouraged. Today, I feel I have found a balance. I look at the news items highlighted on my home page at the start of the day and I watch the national news most evenings. Once in a while, I might watch an interview on one of the news channels, but I  no longer allow politics to occupy my mental and emotional life. As soon as I walk away from the computer or the change the station on the TV, my thoughts go there. I believe this is what God asks of me. Be present…be here, now, in this place.

I want to be aware of all that goes on in my world because I am one with the world. I seek to be of service and most often the call to serve comes from my immediate circle of family and friends. Occasionally, I am called to served the larger circles of life. When that happens, I try to respond with wisdom and love.

L’Chaim. To Life! Shalom. To Peace!

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A Writer’s Leading

My book, due to come out in June, consists of stories told about Jesus by his disciples in the context of a memorial service after his death.* When I first decided to write the book, I had intended to include people he met along his journey such as those he healed. I eventually decided to forgo these extra encounters and stick with the disciples. Had I not done that, I would still be writing. I still have those stories in a Word folder, ready to  work on if I decide to write another book.

I am reading Jesus and Logotherapy, by Robert C. Leslie. The author uses the psychology of Victor Frankl as he reflects upon events in the life of Jesus. Frankl was a Jewish psychotherapist who experienced living in the concentration camps under Hitler. He later wrote about what he witnessed there, particularly the resiliency of some of the prisoners. According to Leslie, Frankl’s insights and methods were much like how Jesus ministered to those he encountered during his mission years. The chapter I read today was about Zaccheaus, the short little guy who climbed a tree so that he could see Jesus passing through the crowds. It is a favorite among children.

As I read Leslie’s insights concerning Zaccheaus, it dawned on me that Zecchaeus was not just short but he was a dwarf. I had never envisioned a dwarf in the world of Jesus. Zacchaeus was also a tax collector and any commentaries I have read focused on this as the reason that he was considered an outcast by the Jewish community.

Here is the freaky, led by the Spirit, event that occurred this morning.  After, reading the chapter in Leslie’s book, I turned to the Bible, which I began reading again at the start of the year, one chapter per day in each the Old and the New Testaments. Today, I read Leviticus 21. This book was written as an instruction for the Levites, the tribe of Israel that were chosen to serve in the Temple as priests offering sacrifices for the people. This is what I read: “No man with any physical defects may make the offering: no one who is blind, lame, disfigured, or deformed; no one with a crippled hand or foot; no one who is hunchback or a dwarf; no one with any eye or skin disease; and no eunich.” (v. 19-20) Did you catch what caught me? Dwarfism was considered profane, an abomination to God.

My imagination began to whirl. Perhaps Zacchaeus was the son of a priest. Perhaps he chose to become a tax collector because there was no other occupation open to him. Perhaps he cheated people of their money out of revenge for their rejection of him. Did he live alone or, perhaps, with his mother? Was she rejected after giving birth to a dwarf? Who would Jesus bring with him to Zacchaeus home? Matthew, the tax collector, for sure, but maybe Peter or his wife who had a child born with palsy. They would understand Zacchaeus in a way the other disciples might not. Oh my goodness. Oh my goodness! Here I go.

If you want to know what a writer’s inspiration is about…this is it. I would call it the leading of the Holy Spirit. Oh my goodness!

  • If you are visiting my blog, there is a link above to my book page. It is still under construction but will have information on how to get the book once the book is published.
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Gotta Love Mother Nature

We are promised warmer weather in Minnesota. Monday in the 60,s perhaps.

With mounds of snow this means lots of melting, flooding in some places, and mud everywhere.

Why even think of the negatives when we have waited so long for spring to finally arrive, you may ask.

Silly! Don’t you know that this is what Minnesotans do?

Complaining about the weather keeps people of opposing views in politics, religion and lifestyles talking to one another.

Without it there could be no MInnesota Nice.

Weather talk makes us One while all of that other stuff divides.

So, I doubt that God, in the guise of Mother Nature, is displeased with us for being ungrateful.

Gotta love Mother Nature…she her earned her title as Mom.

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Warriors Don’t Cry

A number of weeks ago, I attended a performance with my daughter, granddaughter and a friend of “Nine Who Dared” the story of the nine teens in Little Rock, Arkansas, who attempted to integrate all white Central High School. It was an interesting format with the characters alternating between acting out the story and commenting to the audience. At the end, the main characters sat in chairs and opened themselves up to questions. I was amazed that during this time, they stayed in the characters that they were representing. I was especially impressed with the young woman who played Melba Beals because she was so knowledgeable about Melba’s family background. I asked her about this later as the players were meeting with us as we exited the theater. She said, “Read the book Warriors Don’t Cry“. I ordered it as soon as I got home.

I finished Warriors this morning. Two things struck me. The first is the level of suffering these children endured for the sake of equality. I would have to list them right alongside Ghandhi and M.L. King as heroes. The fact that the adults and students of Little Rock could impose such suffering on other human beings is beyond my imagining. Many of the acts against these kids meets the criteria for torture. Governor Beals, Little  Rock’s City Council, the National Guard, school board members, the school administration and teachers all took a stand against segregation. No one protested the actions against the kids. No one attempted to protect them.

The second thing that struck me is something I was told years ago: if you want to understand history, listen to the stories of the everyday people who lived through historic times. This is why the stories of Ann Frank and Corrie Ten Boom are so important. I am deeply impacted by Warriors Don’t Cry because it is the voice of one who really lived as victim during the height of racism in the south.

I believe that listening to the voices of the people is something we should be doing as we go about trying to create our society. When legislation is being argued in Washington, how many legislators listen to the voices of those who will be most impacted by the laws they write? Listen to the voices of those who don’t have access to a good education, to those who are sick  because they cannot get the health care they need, to those who lose loved ones because of gun violence, to the working poor who can’t make enough money for their basic needs. Listen. Listen, and as Jesus said, hear.

Posted in Life, Politics | 2 Comments

Why I Hate Dieting

Bernie and I are on a diet. Both of us need to lose weight. I tried to find some kind of diet that would be acceptable to both of us but my search led only to frustration. I went to Barnes’ and Noble to find the perfect book but all I found were diet books with pages and pages of information about how the body works, what it needs and lots about motivating yourself. The fact is, I know all this stuff. I have had a few times when dieting has worked for me, but at 73, I find I don’t really care how I look like I did when I was young. I want to be healthy because it gives me hope that my latter years will be less uncomfortable. This is why I exercise, too. My problem is that diets and exercise bore me to death. My favorite activities are reading, writing and sitting around talking with people.

I went on line and searched diet menu plans for dieting. This brought up some helpful tips on choosing foods for meals and snacks. This seemed much simpler than rehashing all the studies I had done in the past. So I told Bernie, “I will plan our meals and hope for the best.” I also decided to count calories after we eat rather than before. I figure that over time, knowing what to eat and portions will come naturally.

We started yesterday. What Bernie is not used to is the measuring (just one teaspoon of butter on your toast, only 2 tablespoons of dressing on your salad). I am not planning to get into non-fat foods. I would rather just cut back on the amount of something that tastes good than eat a greater volume of something that tastes like rubber.

We got through our first day. This morning I made berry, banana, yogurt smoothies for breakfast. I told Bernie he can have a piece of toast with his. So far so good. Yet, I have to tell you that I am spending  way to  much time thinking about this and making notes. There are a hundred things I would rather be doing. What I really want is for Oprah’s Mr. Green to move in with and prepare all our meals and leave me free to do whatever I want with my time.

Posted in Family, Life | 8 Comments