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Archive for February, 2017

You can quit your job but you can’t quit your calling. –Lissa Rankin

Gentle reader, for the context of this topic, Guiding Life Principles, please see PART I.

Call.  My ‘Guiding Life Principle’ is: Discern, embrace, integrate and live into and out of your life’s Call.  I knew when I was 16 years old that I was called to serve as an educator.  At that time I did not have the words, yet I heard and felt the ‘Call.’  The concept of ‘Educator’ did not fully emerge into my consciousness until I was in my late 30s (prior to this the concepts of ‘teacher,’ ‘counselor,’ ‘consultant,’ ‘advisor’ and ‘guide’ were the words I used to describe my ‘Call’).  In my mid-40s I emerged the concept that I continue to hold today: depth-educator.  ‘Teachers’ are charged with delivering information.  ‘Educators’ are charged with calling forth (the root is ‘educare’ – to call forth).

As a ‘Depth-Educator’ I am charged to ‘call forth’ from the depth of the person (or the team or the organization) that which lies hidden.  My main ‘tool’ for calling forth is ‘inquiry.’  As an Educator I am called to serve others in ways that help promote their own growth as human beings (the human dimensions that need nurturing so they can grow in healthy ways are the Physical, the Intellectual, the Emotional, the Spiritual and the Social dimensions – for some ‘Spirit’ resonates more powerfully than does ‘Spiritual’).

I am also ‘Called’ to help individuals, ‘teams,’ and organizations develop their ‘professional’ or ‘role’ capacities.  Again, as a ‘Depth-Educator’ I strive to ‘Call Forth’ the gifts, talents, abilities, and capacities that lie – sometimes that lie dormant – within.  Then I seek to serve in ways that promote growth, or healing or development.

The ‘context’ changes.  I might respond to my call within the context of a classroom, or a retreat-conference center, or an office, or conference room, or a garden or a chapel.  At times I serve as a ‘thought-partner’ – to a person or to a team.

I define ‘Call’ as using my gifts, talents, skills, and capacities to address and serve needs that exist in my/the world.  For me ‘Call’ is rooted in ‘I MUST!’  If I am going to live the life I am ‘called to live’ then ‘I MUST!’ discern and respond to ‘My Call.’  I would like to be able to say that for these past 50+ years that I have always been passionate about my ‘Call.’  I have not.  There have been times when I wanted to no longer ‘heed my Call.’  I even had an ‘escape route’ in mind.  The times I did want to ‘escape from my Call’ the Universe nudged me and I decided to continue to heed my Call.

Gentle reader, I leave us this morning with Frederick Buechner’s concept of ‘Call;’ his words feed and support me: The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.’

 

 

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Integrity without knowledge is weak and useless, and knowledge without integrity is dangerous and dreadful. –Samuel Johnson

Gentle reader, for the context of this topic, Guiding Life Principles, please see PART I.

This morning I will continue to explore my Guiding Life Principles.

Integrity.  My Guiding Life Principle is ‘At all times, speak and act rooted in Integrity.  Many years ago the word/concept ‘Truth’ not ‘Integrity’ was the final word.  The great German philosopher Kant believed that one should always – and I emphasize ALWAYS – speak the truth.  For Kant it was clear: If one did not always speak the truth (think: be honest, be transparent, be clear and direct, never lie, and never manipulate, etc.) one could not live a life rooted in integrity.

More than 50 years ago I discovered that one could lie rooted in integrity.  Integrity trumped truth-telling.  As a young university student I had already read about and heard stories about people ‘lying with integrity.’  Folks who hid other folks from the persecutors often lied with integrity.  Integrity is also one of my 3-4 ‘Core Life Values’ (Each of us has integrated 3-4 ‘Core Life Values’ that support us, motivate us, and inform our decisions.  They are ‘Core’ because to the best of our ability we will never compromise them).

If I choose to know myself then I will seek to discern both my Guiding Life Principles (especially those that are ‘Core’ to my being) and my ‘Core Life Values.’

Core Life Purpose.  How many of us can clearly speak to our Core Life Purpose?  I was clearly aware of my ‘Call’ when I was 16 years old (my ‘Call’ to be an ‘depth-educator’); although I was not able to emerge the exact words until I was in my early 40s (prior to having these two words – ‘depth-educator’ – emerge into my consciousness I used the terms, ‘teacher, educator, advisor, counselor –none of these ‘fit’ well enough; once the concept of ‘depth-educator’ emerged I knew immediately that this was the fit I had been searching for (as an aside: I had never stopped searching for the ‘right words’ – the ‘being open’ and the ‘searching’ are crucial).

On the other hand, I was 53 years old when I finally discerned my ‘Core Life Purpose.’  Until then I had tested out a number of ‘Purposes’ and ‘Passions’ and yet none of them felt ‘Core’ to me.  In May, 1997 I had a dream.  For about 18 months I had been immersed in a ‘Dark Night of the Soul’ journey.  On the night of my ‘dream’ I was in a hotel in Vancouver British Columbia; I was preparing to spend three days with one hundred Christian School Principles.  Our topic was: ‘Call, Passion, Purpose.’

As I was preparing to retire I found myself in a rant.  I was loudly ranting to God.  My rant’s focus was on my not being clear about my ‘Life’s Purpose.’  I ranted and raved for some time.  Then I fell into a deep sleep and had the following dream:

I was sitting comfortably in a room.  I could not discern anything in the room except that I felt comfortable and peace-full.  Then a White Tablet was presented to me.  On this White Tablet (it seemed to be about 3 feet long and 2 feet wide) written in brilliant red letters were the words: You Are Love-Able!  I read them.  Slowly the tablet was removed and then it was replaced with another White Tablet.  On it were written, again in brilliant red letters, these words: They Are Love-Able!  Slowly this tablet was removed and a third tablet replaced it.  Again it was a White Tablet and the words were written in brilliant red letters.  This tablet read: You Are Here to Love!

After I read these words I immediately woke up; I was refreshed and I experienced an inner peace that I have never felt since then (less than an hour had passed – in real time).  For the first time I was absolutely clear as to my Core Life Purpose.  When I close my eyes today I can see

You Are Love-Able!
They Are Love-Able!
You Are Here to Love!

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Know thyself. – The Oracle

Today is my birthday; it is also my fifth anniversary for my blog.  Yesterday as I was reading, two words caused me to stop and reflect a bit – and then to reflect a bit more.  I then took pen in hand and I began to put some thoughts on paper.  The two words: guiding principles.

It seems to me that as human beings we each, over time, develop and integrate a number of principles that provide us guidance as we strive to live our lives.  I have come to call these ‘Guiding Life Principles.’  Some of these are conscious, some reside in our pre-conscious and some reside in our sub-conscious.  The ones that reside in our sub-conscious are quite powerful and are not easily accessible.  Our unconscious guiding life principles are connected to – tied at the hip if you will – our deep tacit assumptions.

When I awoke this morning and I began to consider what I might write about on my birth-day it occurred to me to write a bit about some of my guiding life principles – the ones that are easily accessible to me.  As I share mine, I invite you, gentle reader to spend some time emerging and reflecting upon yours.

The unexamined life is not worth living. –Socrates

 I will up the ante a bit by adding this: To refuse to examine our guiding life principles is potentially immoral.

Know thyself.  Thousands of years ago the Oracle at Delphi provided us with these words of guidance.  As far as I know, for thousands of years the great wisdom traditions and the great wisdom figures have supported this primary life principle.  Who I am and who I am choosing to become powerfully influences, if not directly determines, how I will choose to act.

Socrates upped the ante when he told us that the unexamined life is not worth living.  I have come to believe this.  Socrates did not add that refusing to do so would be immoral – but I think that refusing to do so is, indeed, potentially immoral.  Why would I want to live a life and not be fully conscious (think: awake and aware, intentional and purpose-full) of who I am and of the life I am choosing to live?

What else might I seek to ‘know’ about myself?  Each of the following directly or indirectly determine ‘how’ we will choose to live our life.  If I am freely going to choose for or choose against then it is important that I ‘know’ and ‘understand’ each of the following.  Here is my short list: Core Life Values’ (the 3-4 values that to the best of my ability I will never compromise), my prejudices, stereotypes, lenses through which I view the world (think: Core Life Metaphors as a major lens.  For example: ‘Life is a never-ending struggle’ is a powerful core life metaphor that some have integrated), my deep tacit assumptions/beliefs (think, for example: I assume that people are inherently good versus I believe that people are inherently sinners).  There are others but these will have to suffice for today.

At our healthiest, as a fully imperfect human being, I am, at my best, a living paradox.  I am good and evil, I am virtue and vice, and I am light and darkness.  At any moment I am moving toward one of these polarities and I am moving toward another.  As a fully imperfect human being it is impossible for me to become ‘pure’ light or ‘pure’ darkness.  Historically, people have come close to both but have never become complete ‘light’ or complete ‘darkness.’

Seeking to Know Thyself is a life-long journey.  It is a search that is never ending.

We will continue our exploration of some of my Guiding Life Principles next time.

My life is my message. –Gandhi

 

 

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As individuals and collectives/communities we humans have, for thousands of years, viewed the ‘world’ (think: ‘Reality’) through a variety of lenses.

For we in the West – specifically we in the United States – for the past 50+ years or so look through a primary lens, a ‘Big Lens.’  We seek to view the ‘Real World’ through our ‘Big Lens’ – more importantly as a culture/nation we believe that what we see through our ‘Big Lens’ is in fact REALITY (we then tend to dismiss the ‘reality’ that other cultures/nations see through their ‘Big Lenses’ as illusory, as not-being-reality).

In the United States, our primary cultural lens, our ‘Big Lens,’ is the ‘Economic Lens.’  In addition, our primary Cultural Metaphor is the ‘Banking Metaphor’ (common banking metaphorical terms we have integrated include, but are not limited to, to the following: people are not fully human beings, they are: assets, commodities, liabilities and resources).

The ‘Economic Big Lens’ and the ‘Banking Metaphor’ are OUR primary modes of explanation for human behavior.  All other explanations are at best suspect and at worst wrong.

The process, among other things, includes the application of mathematical and statistical models to the ‘real-world’ problems, challenges, and dilemmas we believe exist.  Because they are complex by nature they have become an intellectually privileged form of analysis (I understand the Metaphor yet, I am not capable of understanding the mathematical and statistical models or the processes and I am considered to be ‘well-educated.’ By the by, even the ‘professionals’ disagree – so where does that leave the rest of us?).

Keeping with the ‘Big Lens’ and the ‘Banking Metaphor’: Let’s count, let’s rank, let’s chart, let’s determine the cost-benefit ratios.  If we do it well we will truly learn ‘what’s what’ and, in all likelihood we will clearly discern what we must do; the future will play out that is more predictable.

Here’s the simple version (as far as I can determine – which might not be too far): We can and should quantify and rank – AND we can trust the results of that quantification and the resulting ranking.

We believe the ‘crowd’ (think: experts, elected officials, academics, etc.) is wise and so we can rely on its determination of what is true.  Equally, the ‘market’ is unerring.  Consequently – perhaps via the miraculous – society ends up better off because each of us pursues our self-interest in a lawful way (the lawful way = the ethical way for us; the moral way is, at best, ignored).

Sadly, even before the financial meltdown of September 2008, a number of observant-knowledgeable folks attempted to point out the flaws in this view of people and markets.  Their observations and warnings were dismissed and…

We have had more than enough confirmation that markets do not automatically adjust; that people do not know what is in their self-interest; indeed, that both individuals and markets are frequently irrational and not to be trusted; and that their combination is too often toxic as often as they are tonic.

Our economic meltdown did not impact the ‘Big Lens’ or the ‘Banking Metaphor.’  In spite of the devastation both remain integrated in our Cultural Psyche.  Even with the known flaws and limitations of these siblings, it appears as if enough of those who chose to vote in our recent presidential election believe in the ‘Big Lens’ and in the ‘Banking Metaphor’ such that we elected a president and congress that deeply believe in both.  The mantra of a ‘trickle-down effect’ is alive and well (and like all of the previous ‘trickle-down effects’ this one too will fail – what is unknown is the amount of damage that will result).

The ‘Big Lens’ and the ‘Banking Metaphor’ will remain strong.  There appears to be no viable alternatives and little desire from ‘we the people’ to emerge alternatives.

To what extent do we truly believe that we human beings will actually make decisions rationally, particularly when applied to economic decisions – too often we neglect the exceptions, those situations where personality or context or ideological factors induce non-rational reactions are at play (need a reminder: see September 2008).

Human agency matters enormously – it allows us to transcend the determination rooted in and alleged by the ‘Big Lens,’ the ‘Banking Metaphor’ and by the political and market theorists.  There are ‘human agency’ voices speaking out.  Let he who has ears listen and pay attention.

 

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Last year I made a note in one of my journals.  I was reading Will Durant’s ‘Our Oriental Heritage.’  In it he made a reference to the ancient Egyptian concept of ‘Ma-at.’  As far as I could discern, ‘Ma-at’ meant, among other things, truth, justice, balance, and the stately progression of time.  The way things are supposed to be – all of those things and other things are contained in this one word: ‘Ma-at.’

Throughout the centuries conditions change (a bit of an understatement I know) and people change.  In order to thrive amidst change the concepts that ‘Ma-at’ referred to required on-going searching conversations.  As history – ancient and contemporary – tells us, the absence of continuous depth conversations – searching conversations – the wisdom we received from the elders evolves into unreflective orthodoxy (think: ‘My way or the highway!’).

In many ways technology has not helped us.  We now live in a world where there are few fixed places anymore.  We speak out of nowhere.  We can be – and are – anywhere.  It appears that less and less can be ‘fact checked.’  Almost anything we can imagine is, in the end, true.  If ‘facts’ and ‘truth’ can’t be checked then how are we to judge?  Within the past few months, non-truths have become ‘alternative facts.’  Sweeping statements are defended as ‘truth.’

I am a theist – as distinct from a deist.  I believe in one God.  Now I am not alone.  For example, I stand with the other two Abrahamic Traditions (Jews and Muslims).  There are other traditions that also believe/believed in one God.  I am also a Trinitarian.  I believe that there are three persons in one God (now, this concept has always been a mind-stretching and mind-blowing and mind-challenging one for me).  It is important that for me, in this instance, the word ‘believe’ means ‘faith.’  Many years ago someone asked me ‘How do you know it is faith?’  I had to think about this for some time.  Here is my response: ‘You know it is faith because no sane person would believe it.’  That’s the best I can do when it comes to answering the question.

As a Trinitarian I have come to think about each of the God-Persons in this way.  I employ three concepts that have been stimulating us humans for thousands of years: Truth-Beauty-Goodness.

For me, ‘Truth’ is the province of Jesus-the-Christ.  He was pretty clear: ‘I am the Way, the Truth…’  ‘Beauty’ is the province of God-the-Creator.  The Creator endowed us humans with some of His creative abilities (I am recalling a bumper sticker: God creates beauty-not junk).  Of course, we have free-will and we can choose to destroy as well as create.  ‘Goodness’ is the province of the ‘Spirit-of-Life’ (aka: ‘The Holy Spirit’).  The only sin, for a ‘Christian’ that is not forgivable is the ‘sin against the Holy Spirit’ (we Christians have been attempting to figure exactly what that sin entails; theories abound).

We humans are capable of great goodness and we must be sustained in our quest for we are also capable of great evil.  The Holy Spirit animates and sustains our quest to choose goodness more than evil (being the imperfect folks we are, of course, we will fail).  But, ‘Truth-Beauty-Goodness’ also support love, forgiveness, reconciliation and healing (remember ‘Religion’ is rooted in ‘religio’ – to rebind and make whole).

I find the concepts of ‘Ma-at,’ Truth, Beauty and Goodness to be concepts that are ‘real’ and yet are not easily ‘fact-checked’ – most of us know, however, when we experience them.  Which is nice – and it feeds my hope.

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