Facebook and the Making of Revolutions

I have been lightly following the Mark Zuckerberg hearing. I used to think sharing private information was dangerous because someone can get into my financial records or send me ads for things someone discerns I will want to buy. This morning I considered the many political posts I get on my Facebook page. Most, or rather all, of these tend to be liberal because I am a liberal. I am sure it has been calculated how many times I like or re-post a story or opinion that tends to be liberal. What I realize is that if my activity opens the door for only left-leaning posts, I am getting more of what I start out believing in the first place. I am absolutely sure this is the experience of my conservative friends. Their conservative views are being reinforced by news stories and opinions exactly like their own. I note, too, that within the range of either conservative or liberal opinions, there are the moderate and extreme views as well as the reasonable and the nasty.

The outcome, it seems to me, isn’t so much educating Americans as pitting sides against one another. There have been apposing sides in American politics since George Washington. People believe differently because of different needs and life situations. I believe that trying to bring differing points of view to the table to make difficult decisions is the function of a democratic form of government. What is happening here today is deepening the defensiveness,  the frustration, and anger of each side. This isn’t what makes healthy democracies; it is what makes revolutions.

Thanks, Facebook.

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True Self says “I Love Me”

I am reading Immortal Diamond by Richard Rohr in which he articulates the difference between the false self and the True Self. I would suggest that the false self is that part of us lives and moves in what Jesus referred to as the earthly kingdom and the True Self is the part of us that moves and has its being in the Heavenly Kingdom.

Another name for the false self is ego. Rohr and others I have read point out that the ego is  a self we create starting from very early on to help us protect ourselves and to make our way in the world, the earthly kingdom. Extremely useful in helping us get things done, but not so useful when we mistake the ego for our True Self. Ego has characteristics that are very harmful:

1. It makes us believe we are somehow separate and alone, better than or less than                others. “It is all about me” is ego’s mantra.

2. It buys into whatever the world is telling us that makes us valuable such as what we            own. who our parents are, or the job we have, or our leadership role, even in                        religion.

3. If it is strong, it can lead to fear of anything that threatens it, to tell us that what we            thought about ourselves may not be totally true.

True Self, on the other hand:

1. Brings us to a place where we see  that we are all equally loved by God. When we               are living in the True Self, we not longer see ourselves as better than anyone or less             than anyone else. All are One. I have no reason to be intimidated by anyone nor
am I inclined to put down anyone else in order to make myself seem more right.

2. It knows that our value is not in any way connected with what we have or our                      accomplishments in the worldly view. I don’t have to be the perfect mom, a                          successful person in my career world, or have a lifestyle that is flashier than
anyone else’s. I am valuable simply because I am a creation of God. When in the                  True Self, I can say with conviction, “I love me.”

3. I have nothing to fear. If my value doesn’t depend on being the perfect mom, I can              forgive myself when I lose it with my kids. If I blow a business deal, get a                              demotion, or lose my job, I may reevaluate how I managed my time, but my job is              just what I do to make my way in the world. Ego may get rattled, but my True Self                is continues to know that it is one with others, has value, and has nothing to fear.

Awakening to the True Self, Rohr says (and I believe), is what our most important task on this earth is all about. I myself tend to move in between True Self awareness and ego control. I am getting better as I get older. I have the support of others on the same path. I have teachers like Richard Rohr.

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When Love is Not Received

Did I offer peace today?
Did I bring a smile to someone’s face?
Did I say words of healing?
Did I let go of my anger and resentment?
Did I forgive?
Did I love?
These are the real questions.

– Henri Nouwen

What becomes of peace when offered and rage continues? Where is the smile when joy is offered and sadness runs too deep? What becomes of healing when infection is run rampant? Even if my own anger and resentment have been silenced, and forgiveness is right there, why does this not translate into love?


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Holding on to Love

I am struggling today with what it means to love. I am fortunate to have people in my life who struggle with the same thing. When I worshiped with the Quakers, this was always a painful theme because Quakers are also involved with peace and justice activity which constantly puts them into the world of people suffering from hatred in its many forms. How does one love an enemy? Yet this is what Jesus called us to.

At times like this, I bring to mind the heroes who have helped shape my philosophy of life: Mahatma Gandhi, Quaker Tom Fox, and Nelson Mandela, to name three. Each of these men struggled with this question: How do I love the enemy even as they continue to torture me or those I love? Jesus struggled with the same issue. We have a record of his last words, words of a man who never chose hate over love.

First he chose the love of self as he stood against Satan’s attack’s on his person. I believe it was his survival of this attack that prepared him for what was to come. Then he chose love of others as he went about preaching the Kingdom of God to his own people and, more important, living so people could see what it means to love with the very love of God dwelling inside. He had started his mission with good intentions, I am sure. Little did he know, until later in his mission, that his vision was a confrontation to the traditionalists. I am sure he thought, “Why don’t they understand me? This message is so simple, so pure, so full of love.”

In the garden of Gethsemane, he begged God to take away the suffering, to make everything alright again. It was love that made him finally say, “Not my will but yours.” God’s will was what he had committed to long ago. He would stay in that will to the end, no matter what.

When the temple guards came to arrest him, one of the disciples tried to defend him, drawing his sword and attacking one of the men. “Not this,” Jesus told him. To go to battle against the enemy with violence would have destroyed everything he had worked for. Love. Only love. Who can imagine such a commitment?

Then on the cross, when he was in the midst of the pain inflicted upon him, the Spirit, alive in him, was able to find a space to be released. Forgiveness, not based on worthiness of the attackers, but on the love that God has for all of his creatures. In the end, he let go and his Spirit left his body behind. The pain finally ended.

This is a better Good Friday writing than one written in the middle of the Easter season. But this is what is on my heart today. From the brief list of heroes I listed above, Tom Fox’s experience is closest to what I believe Jesus experienced. As a Quaker, he believed that there is “that of God” in everyone, EVERYONE! Throughout his time of incarceration and torture at the hands of  Iraqi terrorists, he questioned what this kind of love can mean. In Tom Fox Was My Friend. Yours, Too, we read his journals. He held onto love until the end.

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Watching Out for Addictions

I am amazed at how my moods can change from day to day. Yesterday I felt like I was dragging around my own dead body with functioning feet. Every so often I thought, “I should stop and take a nap,” but, instead, would set myself in my rocker like a sack of flour and play games on my phone. I should get rid of the games, but they come in so handy when I have to wait in the doctor’s office or when riding a long distance with a not-talkative person with different taste in radio stations than I have.

I have 8 games on the phone, all free. It corks me when a game that claims to be free wants to charge me for added time or more killer balloons or more hints. One game finally cut me off like a rookie insurance agent that finally accepts that your “no” means “no”. Those game apps are counting on people getting addicted. I have dealt with addiction and have acquired some limits that help me from getting hooked:

  1. I hate spending money on something so frivolous as a game. If there were no free game apps I would have no games on my phone and I would go back to paper back crossword puzzle books.
  2. I have to watch out when something starts looking like my real addictions. For example, I find myself not doing things I really should do or I play a game over and over again until I find I have played a game for an hour that only takes 4 minutes to play.
  3. The third sign is when something becomes my first default, like automatically grabbing chocolate as soon as I get bored.

Yesterday was one day that all three of these danger signs showed up. So far today, and it is 11:19 am, I haven’t played a game. My mood is better today in spite of the December in April weather we are having in Minnesota. We will see how the rest of the day goes.

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Due Date is Almost Here

No sooner did I make a commitment to blogging regularly than my blog page crashed. But my blog guru son, Chris, got ‘er up and running again. Meanwhile, I met with the publisher of my book, The Memorial of Jesus, to discuss marketing. As an important part of that, Chris set up a page which you may have gone to today if you went to read my blog. I hope it doesn’t throw anyone. If you are reading this, you clearly are still sitting in your chair.

The page about my book is still under construction. By June, you will see the actual cover of the book and instructions on how to order it. There will be a place where I can post upcoming events and pictures after the events take place. It is a bit daunting. Already, I wonder sometimes if there are enough hours in the day and I think, “This will probably get worse.”

Getting the book published has been a long time dream. If you are interested in how the book came to be, that is what the book’s preface is about. You will have to buy the book to read the story. It has been one long journey.

Last week I had a meeting with my mentor, Hanna Kjeldbjerg, of Beavers Pond Press to talk about marketing. As I put away my notes before heading home, she said there was one more task for me to do before the book goes to press. She handed me the paper copy of the book and said that I should do my final edit and then it would go to print. No turning back after that.

I spent all the next day working on it. I have probably revised this book a dozen times since its conception. It has been edited and proofread by professionals. I know it as intimately as a mother knows its newborn child. As I went through it this last time, I realized two things:

1. I can be proud of the writing. The stories in The Memorial of Jesus are interesting and deeply human. I still cry when I read parts of it. I truly believe this was co-creation with my God.

2. I think I succeeded in communicating the spiritual message.

While the latter is the more important, I know the message would not get out if the book were not well written.

Friends who have been asking about the book can expect it go come out in June. Keep an eye out. I can’t wait to share The Memorial of Jesus with you.

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Straddling between Two Kingdoms

It is expected to be in the 40’s today. It is rather windy but I still plan to step out for a walk this afternoon. The mile plus walk I took yesterday with others for gun control reeked havoc on my feet. I guess I am really out of shape and can’t wait to change that.

I read this morning that the NRA says that the movement of young people is really instigated by bad adults, part of the overall conspiracy. Wow, that is a lot of control! Maybe even possible. But I don’t think so. I am not part of a conspiracy just because I want to take guns off the streets and out of schools. While I support Democratic measures for sensible gun controls, I personally would go much further. I am with Peace Pilgrim who spoke total non-violence. End all violence between individuals, in families, among neighbors, and between nations. She also spoke about starting by removing violence from within yourself. I know that Jesus wants that, too.

Here it is: whenever I am loving, I am living in the Kingdom of God as Jesus preached it, here and now. When I am self-centered, I  am living in the Earthly Kingdom, which Jesus said to wear loosely. I won’t be fully in the former until I leave the latter, but I am doing the best I can to increase my time spent in the Heavenly Kingdom.

Not always easy, but amazingly simple.

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