May 17, 2019
I use a quote from Linda Thompson to converse about the relationship between pain, suffering, and compassion. Thompson said:
"Our uniqueness, our individuality, and our life experience molds us into fascinating beings. I hope we can embrace that. I pray we may all challenge ourselves to delve into the deepest resources of our hearts to cultivate an atmosphere of understanding, acceptance, tolerance, and compassion. We are all in this life together."
I begin by mentioning that our brains are hypersensitive to pain. Human brains do distinguish between psychological and physical trauma. And emotionally charged people tend to react rather than respond to painful circumstances. We're built that way. Conversely, in less emergent circumstances, we may delay, defer, or deny that we're suffering. The Buddha offers the Eightfold Path as a means for encountering and overcoming suffering. Christian moral theology offers the virtues of faith, hope, and love as devoted means for attending to our own suffering as well as the suffering of other people.
I then offer some quick blurbs about Marc and Angel Chernoff's recent post on Hack Life. Angel writes about 20 Tiny Thoughts that crush our dreams. She lists the inner critic statements we tell ourselves that cause chronic pain and diminished achievements. ("I'm not good enough," "It is too hard," "I wasn't meant to do it anyway,)" She concludes by suggesting that we should seek out the opportunity in everything. I think opportunity is most likely to be found by truly diving into the sorrowful moments of our lives. That is where we will find God.
The Way of Love and The Circle Way offer resources for creating rituals and practices for honoring ourselves and other people with patience and compassion. Living in dynamic times such as ours requires us to be truthful yet gentle with ourselves so that we bring grace and determination with us into our communities of faith, families, neighborhoods, and the broader world.
Blessings along The Way, Jim
May 16, 2019
Hi there, Jim will be producing a "Circle Way" based podcast tomorrow (May 17th).
For now, here's Jim sermon from last Sunday's worship at Christ Memorial Episcopal Church. The church had a unique opportunity to worship with a limited Heritage Edition of the Gospel/Acts Saint John's Bible. Jim reads from and shares his personal experiences of Mother's Day memories. He offers how Christians and other people of faith may interpret the Bible's examples of Good Shepherding. Mothers are shepherds of God's love in their own unique and faithful ways. The Saint John's Bible recognizes the more than important place and leadership of women in The Bible. Jim highlights 3 "Bs" (believing, belonging, and be-loving) as The Way for Christians to listen to the Gospel of John and become Good Shepherds ourselves, today.
Blessings along The Way
May 4, 2019
Today's podcast consider true wisdom. Jim considers a couple of problems he had during the week. He uses the Enneagram Institute's and Essential Enneagram resources. He explains how he has a Type 4 tends to be creative and intuitive. These personality characteristics may be virtuous and/or shadowy depending upon Jim's and other 4s frames of reference and willingness to evaluate what is truly happening here and now versus what may have happened or is desirable in the future.
Jim then moves along to discuss how the Ladder of Inference tool may be very helpful for all personality types regardless whether are positioned in the Instinctive, Feeling, or Thinking Centers.
Check it out and consider how wise you are and what solutions you use, inferentially or otherwise.
Blessings along The Way, Jim
April 26, 2019
Photo credit - Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash
Jim returns to his exploration of circles and The Circle Way. Today he considers the paradoxically token nature of life and death. He ponders how tombs and wombs often are present with one another in the same sacred space. He enters into this conversation through Ysaye M. Barnwell's captivating lyrics and music in her song Wanting Memories.
He loves Cantus' version of this song and shares it as well.
Memories inform who we are. They shape the nature of our path as well as the contents of our being. They may hold us captive and/or offer an essence for reclaiming our new life, especially when we invite God to enter into the conversation. Memories need not bind us to some chronological and static path. Rather memories may wind and unwind us into a new and more holy space for our lives to occur. Moveover, memories along with daily experience interconnect us to one another, to God, and beyond our human sensibilities.
Jim offers one scriptural analogy thru an interpretation of St. Thomas' encounter with the Risen Christ. Thomas doubts that Jesus is resurrected, especially given Jesus' crucifixion. Thomas demands to physically encounter Christ. His circle of friends invites him to do so with them. In this space, all of Thomas' doubts and fears are extinguished by Christ's invitation to see God's incarnate love in a new way.
So it may be with us, regardless of our religious tradition, when we possess enough courage to love our past experiences and let go of them in the paradoxical tomb/womb moments of our lives. Circles create space and time for such order, disorder, and reordering to unfold.
Enjoy the podcast and share it graciously as the Spirit leads you.
Blessings along The Way, Jim
Photo Credit - Inner Quest - a quilt made by Pearl Squires
April 23, 2019
Here's my tribute to the The Doobie Brothers, Bonnie Raitt, Carlos Santana, and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young's music. I use their tunes and themes to wind my way thru Holy Week and Jesus' Just Alright w/ Me Resurrection. The audio is a bit shaky but listenable. I preach about my experiences this Holy Week. I offer a playlist as a backdrop to understanding Jesus' last mortal week and his ongoing resurrection with us. The associated playlist is at here on Christ Memorial's webpage.
Blessings along The Way, Jim
April 17, 2019
Jim offers a special Holy Week episode. He opens with a reading from Proverbs. Work committed to God is established in a holy way. This passage makes fertile soil for considering Holy Week's questions. What does it mean for contemporary people of faith to follow Jesus into his passion? Are we willing to die as he did? Was his death necessary? Jim explores the work of Ernest Becker, the Episcopal Prayer Book's Collect for Palm Sunday, and his observations regarding the conflictual paradox in finding one's life by confronting death and losing what we most deeply value.
One of CircuOsity's followers invited Jim to more fully explore the virtues and flaws of clinging to Jesus. Jim discusses his own confusion regarding Jesus' innocent death on the cross. He offers some thoughts about why substitutionary atonement is a flawed yet often accepted remedy for human sinfulness. And, he offers that Christians are indeed called to live into Jesus' death as much as celebrate his resurrection. Jim doesn't mention it here by name while he does speak to emerging ideas regarding Participatory Atonement. We are Christ's disciples (for those of us who are Christian). We are called to his death, burial, and resurrection in daily small deaths as well as more heroic ones.
Jim closes by offering a Holy Week blessings and farewell.
Blessings along The Way - especially in The Church's paradoxical and most abundant days.
April 12, 2019
Howie and Jim approach the end of Lent and the beginning of Holy Week. They discuss the healing as well as the terrifying emotions we experience in the presence of God. The pair chat about how Jesus caused the people around him to be full of awe (awful?). He challenges and provokes emotions in opponents and friends alike. Jesus also encounters angels and demons around himself too.
Howie and Jim discuss the importance of community members sharing their stories, especially in uncertain and sacred time and settings. Holy Week creates space for living into Jesus' last mortal week. The people around Jesus such as the soldiers, the Women of Jerusalem and other human beings. Jim highlights how important was to him to hear Bishop Audrey Scanlan share snippets of her life's stories and the gratitude she feels in the kinship she shares with the clergy in the Diocese of Central Pennsylvania. Jim also offers how Susan Scott's fierce Mineral Rights Conversation would be an excellent tool for Christians to share with themselves and the beloved people around them throughout this coming Holy Week. Howie reminds us that descent into spiritually shadowy spaces to include Christ's Passion is understood in the bright life of Easter.
Howie and Jim close with reflections about how our lives mirror and evidence the same emotions that the women and men around Jesus did.
This week's Path concludes with a couple of plugs. Howie finished his run between St. Thomas' worship services last Sunday. Folks from St. Thomas rallied around him. There's news about Howie's run to support local children. There's lots of photos and captions on St. Thomas' Facebook page.
Jim shared the good news about WNEP's Ryan Leckey's visit to Christ Memorial's awesome Model Trains program. Bob Bomboy and other faithful "conductors" have let this joyous ministry since 2005. There's a video of Bob's interview with Ryan here. Check out Christ Memorial's Facebook page too.
May all of you experience what God intends for you throughout this Holy Week. May your ascents not be too lofty nor your descents too dreadful.
Blessings along The Way,
April 5, 2019
Howie and Jim take some small, struggling steps to understand an ascent toward securing a closer relationship with God. They begin w/ Howie's reading of today's Path. Howie then describes how he continues to focus on taking small steps as he learns The Way as priest at St. Thomas. Jim describes his struggles with asserting himself physically and spiritually as he ages. Howie suggests that we take the proper steps based upon where we are rather than where we've been or expect to go.
The pair next takes a look at St. Paul's "racy" verses in Philippians. Paul strives to abide in deeper relationship with Christ, not because of his gain or strength. Rather he believes in God's yearning for him to obtain the goal of a deeper spiritual truth. Jim follows up with a summary of St. Patrick's return to Ireland. Here too, Patrick's goal wasn't to boast about his own ego. His visionary call was to return to the place of imprisonment in order to proclaim God's love in Christ. In both cases, sacrifice and struggle were the hallmarks of the spiritual ascent.
Jim then pivots the conversation to a discussion regarding our societies' and organizational needs for elders. Jim introduces a recent "musing" from Bill Plotkin (founder of the Animas Valley Institute). Plotkin writes:
"When too many of us don’t grow into true adults, our cultures deteriorate into not-fully-human collectives — immature and dysfunctional societies. Contemporary Western societies are clear examples of this — with the U.S. perhaps in the lead ... he reality is that most contemporary people are lost and languishing on a vast deserted plain on the far side of which arise the gates to true adulthood — and few of them find their way across that plain." (Plotkin, April 5, 2019, paras. 2&4). Truer words have never been authored inside or outside of The Bible or many religious and cultural domains.
Jim and Howie talk about their personal experiences of striving to be elders. The path is a climb to be sure but it isn't about personal gain or status. It is about seeking to make the world more livable and loving.
The podcast concludes with a plug for Howie's and St. Thomas' participation in this Sunday's Crush Your Run. They take a quick look at coming off of the mountain tops and diving into the creative and murky depths of next week's "descending path." There's everything in here from laughter to blessings. Enjoy and share!
Blessings along The Way, Jim and Howie
April 1, 2019
Extenuating circumstances prevented Jim from producing and publishing a podcast today. You'll find Howie's reflection regarding the ascending path on Christ Memorial's Paths webpage later today.
Jim invites you to listen to his sermon he offered yesterday. Jim reflects upon the wisdom of Jesus' Prodigal Son parable. Jim looks thru the lens of his own teenage and young adult experiences to shed some light on the over-abundant yet realistic realities of recognizing and receiving Christ's Grace. Perhaps this message will help us all to understand that sometimes our greatest achievements begin with our harshest lessons. Perhaps?
Blessings along The Way
March 29, 2019
Howie calls in to help Jim explore the Circular Path. Job 26:10 provides the backdrop for this week's summary:
(God) traced a circle on the water’s surface,
at the limit of light and darkness.
The opening question then is: If we assume that this is a poetic way of saying that God has brought order to the universe, what signs of it do you see around you?
Jim and Howie's reflections range from the maintenance of the piscina to the esoteric realities of people's use of psychedelics in the 1970s. The duo then settles into exploring what is seen and unseen within the wanderings of living spiritually upon a circular path. Jim references a conversation that Krista Tippett's with Paulo Coelho on OnBeing's Becoming Wise podcast. Tippett and Coelho discuss pilgrimage. Coelho says:
I also do believe that we have this possibility of doing a pilgrimage every single day — because a pilgrimage implies — in meeting different people, in talking to strangers, in paying attention to the omens — basically being open to life. We leave our home to go to work, to go to school, and we have every single day this possibility, this chance of discovering something new. So the pilgrimage is not for the privileged one who can go to Spain and to France and walk this 500 miles but to people who are open to life. A pilgrimage, at the end of the day, is basically — get rid of things that you are used [to] and try something new.
So it is within the seen and unseen boundaries of a circle.
Jim and Howie check out with a "shout out" for Howie's participation in an upcoming running event. Howie's going to get out and run a 5k between Sunday morning worship services on April 7th. Crush Your Run supports Preston's March for Energy - an organization that provides adaptive bikes for children with special needs.
He's also living into "Hitting the Ground Running" - an effort to promote St. Thomas Episcopal Church's congregational life and connections with the community. And it is a way to get out of the usual circle of Sunday church activities as well as to invite neighbors to share in the church's Holy Week and Easter activities. It should be fun and faithful.
In sum, the circular life is an exploratory one - one when and where a pilgrim is willing to leave home, explore the world, see what's going on while knowing that much of what happens is taking place beyond our control or comprehension.
Blessings along The Way,