Tag Archives: Positive Scripture

But who is my neighbor?

Photo taken from the Brooklyn Bridge, June 2014

“Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

The above words are what is inscribed on the base of the Statue of Liberty. It’s a portion of the poem, The New Colossus, by Emma Lazarus. I’ve been thinking about these words a lot lately. Mostly, I think, because of what has been in the news, and by this I really mean some some of the things spoken by people “in power” with hardened hearts that can’t seem to see beyond their own egos.

Some weeks ago one of these–I shan’t glorify him by mentioning his name, but you know him…the brother and son of former presidents and is in fact running for office himself–referred to first born immigrant children as “anchor babies.” Meaning, I suppose, that the American born baby can anchor it’s immigrant parents here without deportation.

And then just this morning I saw a video clip of that other guy–you know, the one with the fake looking hair who is always yelling–where he said if he wins he will deport every Syrian immigrant because they don’t belong here and they can’t be trusted. What really broke my heart, though, was when he said this the crowd to which he spoke broke out in applause.

And correct me if I’m wrong, but both of these guys–among countless others–would like to “build a wall” to keep immigrants from coming through our southern borders.

If you are like me, and countless other Americans (including the two guys I just mentioned), ancestors on both sides of my family came through New York harbor as they entered this country for the first time. It is doubtful that, even if they could see it, they could read the inscription on the statue because it was written in English, but she is likley one of the first things they saw…welcoming them.

I’m the son of an “anchor baby.” And my anchor-baby-daddy fought in the second world war, and in fact lost hearing in one of his ears defending our country. Two of his brothers (also anchor babies by that politician’s definition) also fought in the war.

I just can’t help but wonder if people (not just the two mentioned above) who are so afraid of others coming to this country (who may seem different than themselves) ever consider what the words on Lady Liberty say, and the fact that our country was founded and populated by immigrants.

And on a different slant, I also can’t figure out how so many of these people, who like to quote the bible (yes, I’m aware that I’m generalizing), don’t see that the very message of Jesus was not segregation, hate, or exclusion, and that his entire short ministry while on this earthly plane can be distilled down to one word…Love.

Some of my favorite passages in the gospel are the parables, which are told in such a way that makes you think but are also meant to be so simple that anyone can understand them, if they listen. And one of my favorites is the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37).

It begins by an “expert in the law” (today, could this be one of the men aforementioned?) asking Jesus what he must do to inherit eternal life. And by this, I take it as not so much in the next life but this one, what must he do to be free, or to use other terminology, enlightened. And clever as he was, Jesus answered the question with a question, to make the person think for himself. He asked him, “What is written, and how do you read it?” The expert of course was able to recite the scripture exactly…”Love God with all your heart, soul, and strength of your mind, and love your neighbor as yourself.”

“You answered correctly,” Jesus told him, “do this and you will live” (do this and you will live…let those words sink in for a moment).

But the expert needed to justify himself, so he asked, “Who is my neighbor?

And this time Jesus answered him with a story (parable), and I am paraphrasing…it began with a man who was walking down a deserted section of road where he encountered thieves. They stripped him, robbed him, beat him, and left him for dead on the side of the road. As people passed the dying man they crossed to the other side of the road and looked the other way. One of the people was a priest, the other was a Levite (I may be wrong, but I believe the beaten man was also a Levite). Anyhow, finally a Samaritan came along, and correct me if I’m wrong again, but I believe during those times a Samaritan was not supposed to socialize with, let alone physically touch, a Levite. But the Samaritan, being filled with compassion, cleansed the man’s wounds with oil and wine and bandaged him. He then carried the man on his own donkey to an inn, where he paid the inn-keeper money to care for the man, and even went so far as to tell the inn-keeper that he will return and pay additional money if needed.

After telling this story Jesus then posed another question to the expert…”Which of these men do you think were a neighbor to the fallen man?” He answered correctly again…”The one who had mercy on him.”

To which Jesus replied simply…”Go and do likewise.”

Our nation was founded and populated by immigrants, yet there are many who forgot this (or choose not to remember or acknowledge it).

And there are some who hold the bible as a shield and claim (incorrectly) that we are a “Christian nation,” yet fail to show compassion, or to quote directly…”Go and do likewise.”

And yes, I know many of these statements (my personal statements) are rash generalizations, but it seems (to me) that somewhere along the journey–with all of our technology allowing us to be connected 24/7–we have become less connected than ever before. In many respects we have lost our way. We as a nation have become more about “I” than “we.”

The fear that I have is not of being over-run by immigrants, my fear is that one of the men previously mentioned actually wins the presidency.

Sorry for my mini-rant; I’ll get off my soapbox now. But before I do I have to pose this question that was spoken more than two millennia ago… Who is my neighbor?

Urban Simplicity.

But who is my neighbor?

Photo taken from the Brooklyn Bridge, June 2014

“Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

The above words are what is inscribed on the base of the Statue of Liberty. It’s a portion of the poem, The New Colossus, by Emma Lazarus. I’ve been thinking about these words a lot lately. Mostly, I think, because of what has been in the news, and by this I really mean some some of the things spoken by people “in power” with hardened hearts that can’t seem to see beyond their own egos.

Some weeks ago one of these–I shan’t glorify him by mentioning his name, but you know him…the brother and son of former presidents and is in fact running for office himself–referred to first born immigrant children as “anchor babies.” Meaning, I suppose, that the American born baby can anchor it’s immigrant parents here without deportation.

And then just this morning I saw a video clip of that other guy–you know, the one with the fake looking hair who is always yelling–where he said if he wins he will deport every Syrian immigrant because they don’t belong here and they can’t be trusted. What really broke my heart, though, was when he said this the crowd to which he spoke broke out in applause.

And correct me if I’m wrong, but both of these guys–among countless others–would like to “build a wall” to keep immigrants from coming through our southern borders.

If you are like me, and countless other Americans (including the two guys I just mentioned), ancestors on both sides of my family came through New York harbor as they entered this country for the first time. It is doubtful that, even if they could see it, they could read the inscription on the statue because it was written in English, but she is likley one of the first things they saw…welcoming them.

I’m the son of an “anchor baby.” And my anchor-baby-daddy fought in the second world war, and in fact lost hearing in one of his ears defending our country. Two of his brothers (also anchor babies by that politician’s definition) also fought in the war.

I just can’t help but wonder if people (not just the two mentioned above) who are so afraid of others coming to this country (who may seem different than themselves) ever consider what the words on Lady Liberty say, and the fact that our country was founded and populated by immigrants.

And on a different slant, I also can’t figure out how so many of these people, who like to quote the bible (yes, I’m aware that I’m generalizing), don’t see that the very message of Jesus was not segregation, hate, or exclusion, and that his entire short ministry while on this earthly plane can be distilled down to one word…Love.

Some of my favorite passages in the gospel are the parables, which are told in such a way that makes you think but are also meant to be so simple that anyone can understand them, if they listen. And one of my favorites is the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37).

It begins by an “expert in the law” (today, could this be one of the men aforementioned?) asking Jesus what he must do to inherit eternal life. And by this, I take it as not so much in the next life but this one, what must he do to be free, or to use other terminology, enlightened. And clever as he was, Jesus answered the question with a question, to make the person think for himself. He asked him, “What is written, and how do you read it?” The expert of course was able to recite the scripture exactly…”Love God with all your heart, soul, and strength of your mind, and love your neighbor as yourself.”

“You answered correctly,” Jesus told him, “do this and you will live” (do this and you will live…let those words sink in for a moment).

But the expert needed to justify himself, so he asked, “Who is my neighbor?

And this time Jesus answered him with a story (parable), and I am paraphrasing…it began with a man who was walking down a deserted section of road where he encountered thieves. They stripped him, robbed him, beat him, and left him for dead on the side of the road. As people passed the dying man they crossed to the other side of the road and looked the other way. One of the people was a priest, the other was a Levite (I may be wrong, but I believe the beaten man was also a Levite). Anyhow, finally a Samaritan came along, and correct me if I’m wrong again, but I believe during those times a Samaritan was not supposed to socialize with, let alone physically touch, a Levite. But the Samaritan, being filled with compassion, cleansed the man’s wounds with oil and wine and bandaged him. He then carried the man on his own donkey to an inn, where he paid the inn-keeper money to care for the man, and even went so far as to tell the inn-keeper that he will return and pay additional money if needed.

After telling this story Jesus then posed another question to the expert…”Which of these men do you think were a neighbor to the fallen man?” He answered correctly again…”The one who had mercy on him.”

To which Jesus replied simply…”Go and do likewise.”

Our nation was founded and populated by immigrants, yet there are many who forgot this (or choose not to remember or acknowledge it).

And there are some who hold the bible as a shield and claim (incorrectly) that we are a “Christian nation,” yet fail to show compassion, or to quote directly…”Go and do likewise.”

And yes, I know many of these statements (my personal statements) are rash generalizations, but it seems (to me) that somewhere along the journey–with all of our technology allowing us to be connected 24/7–we have become less connected than ever before. In many respects we have lost our way. We as a nation have become more about “I” than “we.”

The fear that I have is not of being over-run by immigrants, my fear is that one of the men previously mentioned actually wins the presidency.

Sorry for my mini-rant; I’ll get off my soapbox now. But before I do I have to pose this question that was spoken more than two millennia ago… Who is my neighbor?

And this is what I was thinking about as I sat in a coffee shop on the first chilly day of autumn.

Urban Simplicity.

It’s all around you…

“Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.”
~Philippians 4:8

So some of you may already know this because you’ve either read a Facebook post or I told you in person, but three days ago a wasp collided with me while on a bike going about 18mph. It entered a vent in my helmet and stung me two, possibly three times. Without going into too much detail I’ll just say that I learned the hard way that I am allergic to wasps. Last night was my second and hopefully last visit to the ER at a local hospital; I was there till 5am and almost admitted. So why am I mentioning all this? Because as I was walking to a coffee shop this afternoon after getting only a few hours sleep I was feeling depleted…physically, emotionally, and spiritually (and soon, financially, given healthcare costs). It’s a rainy and grey day and I was walking in my own personal fog. Just walking but not seeing anything. But even though I was feeling low and sort of zombie-like I was still thinking how we and everything are all connected, I just couldn’t feel it right now. So I sent a thought-vibration out into the Universe on this grey, grey day…Show me your beauty, I really need it right now. And before the thought even left me I got response. Not a voice, more of a hunch…a knowing. And the response was simply…It’s all around you. Arrogantly, I thought to myself that I already knew this, but I needed proof. And then I looked down and saw the leaf pictured above, it was on the wet sidewalk directly in my path. All I needed to do was look at what’s right in front of me. 

Urban Simplicity.

Thoughts from a pew…

My faith demands that I do whatever I can, wherever I am, whenever I can, for as long as I can with whatever I have to try to make a difference.
~Jimmy Carter
I sat in a pew this morning, the first time in more than a month. I’m not sure why it’s been this long without attending the church which I love, but it has. But it doesn’t mean I haven’t been to worship since then. I like to think that I worship the Divine (or God, or Universe, or Spirit, or whatever name you feel most comfortable with) on a daily basis. I worship this Presence when I ride my bike, for example, and when I take photos, and when I have a meaningful interaction with someone, be it a friend, family, co-worker, or complete stranger. I also worship this Presence when I lay in bed in the morning just after the alarm goes off and it’s the beginning of a new day. Because, to me, God is in all things (including you and I) and is, in fact, what makes each one of us connected to and inseparable from not only each other in some indescribable way, but also the very source (or consciousness) from which we came and will return. So today I worshiped the Divine more formally, in church. And it felt good.

The guest preacher spoke on the Epistle of James, which is one of the oldest books in the New Testament and is attributed to James the brother of Jesus. It’s a somewhat small book but has a powerful and straightforward message. Some say it is a blueprint for daily living. Personally, it has had a profound effect on me and I return to it often. To me, the book is a synopsis of what Christianity at it’s core is about…not just having faith in a Higher Power, but having action as well.

Faith by itself, if not accompanied by action, is dead.” 
James 2:17

This morning, before leaving the house, as I was having coffee and scrolling through Facebook I came across a photo of Hungarian citizens lining a highway with crates of food and other necessities. They were just average citizens and not affiliated with any government organization. They were lining the highway with food because they knew that soon, very soon, there would be thousands of refugees walking that road. The image was so moving that it brought tears to my eyes.

Humans helping other humans is faith in action. But it goes beyond that, I think. Because this is something that is written on each of our hearts, whether or not you have faith in anything, or whether or not you care to admit it. Deep down each of us knows this.

Inversely, a judge denying other humans of a very basic right because of “her religion” is not faith at all. And deep down—somewhere beneath the crust of her hardened heart—she knows this too. But she will not allow herself to see it. If she did read the scriptures of her so called religion she would see that Jesus spoke of inclusiveness, not exclusivity.

Prior to the preacher’s sermon this morning, a deacon read from the Book of Matthew…

So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you.
Matthew 7:12a

What’s interesting, I think is that this statement—which is commonly referred to as the Golden Rule—is stated in many variations in nearly every major religion and spiritual movement. Jesus himself says this rather bluntly at the end of the statement…“For this sums up the law of the profits.” Matthew 7:12b

Here’s a few examples…

Judaism: Love your neighbor as yourself. 
Hinduism: Do not do to others what would cause pain if done to you. 
Taoism: The sage does not dwell on his own problems. He is aware of the needs of others. 
Islam: None of you has faith until he wishes for his brother what he wishes for himself. 
Buddhism: Hurt not others in ways that you yourself would find hurtful. 
Native American: Do not wrong or hate your neighbor. For it is not he who you wrong, but yourself. 

Then, during worship this morning, as the congregation stood and recited the Lord’s Prayer in unison, it moved me as it often does. The words themselves move me, but so does the thought of so many others around the globe saying this prayer (possibly at that same moment). I hope that some of us—myself included—listened to what we were saying, letting the words sink in and take root.

Last year when I was in NYC I witnessed something I will never forget. A homeless man asked a person to buy him a hotdog from a street vender because he was hungry. The person he asked (wearing a suit) not only bought him food, but he bought himself some as well and then sat on the sidewalk and ate with the man. To me that was not only worship, it was holy communion (Namaste…the soul within me acknowledges the soul within you).

Just being nice to one another—and seeing each person as an equal—can make such a difference in someone’s day (including your own). It’s not always easy but it is possible. When I write these things I am doing so because sometimes they just need to come out, but mostly because I need reminders for myself. And in a way, this in itself, I suppose, is a form of worship, and when you read this we are in sanctuary together.

And this is what I was thinking about as I sat in a pew on a hot and humid Sunday morning in September.

My religion is very simple, my religion is kindness.
~The Dalai Lama 

Urban Simplicity.

An Ode to Dr. Wayne Dyer, plus Three Quotes and a Brief Video…


“How people treat you is their karma; how you react is yours.”

“Change the way you look at things and the things you look at change.”

“When you judge another, you do not define them, you define yourself.”

An Ode to Dr. Wayne Dyer
I’ve read a few of your books,
which I first stumbled upon some years ago
in a used book store.
Your work,
along with Deepak and other contemporaries,
changed me.
For the better.
Your voice and face seemed so familiar,
on TV.
I saw you speak in Toronto,
at an “I Can Do It!” conference.
I had plans on seeing you again,
this time in New York,
this fall,
ironically, on my birthday.
Another “I Can Do It!”
Well you did it, Wayne.
You inspired countless people.
You’ve changed lives.
You, yourself overcame adversity.
And now you did it again,
you made the great transition.
So on my birthday this fall,
I will think of you,
I will thank you,
as I do now.
Godspeed Wayne,
you did it.

Thoughts on the 23rd Psalm…and what it means to me.

So I’ve been thinking about the 23rd Psalm a lot lately. I go through periods where it seems to bubble up from my subconscious. I’m not one to know bible passages by heart, but this one I do. Over the past decade or so it has, on various occasions, helped me a great deal.

This psalm—as with most of the bible, or any sacred text for that matter—I take as metaphor. I like to see how it translates to my life in this time in history, not what it may have meant two or three thousand years ago. This said, before I speak directly of this psalm I have to mention my views on who (or what) I think God is. Yup, I said the G-word and with a capital G.

My views are very personal (but aren’t everyone’s?) and may be out on the fringe for some, so if you are a literalist (meaning, you take the bible as the inherent and unfailing word of God) or if you have religious views that lean decidedly to the right, you may want to close this page right now and not read any further. But if you do continue to read on please do not send me hate mail or try to “save me.”

Ok, so I’ll get back to the big G…who, or more specifically what, God is to me? Well, I certainly do not think of Him as an old man with a white beard sitting up on a cloud somewhere looking down. And I’m conscious that I just used the gender-specific “Him” in the previous sentence. I do this out of habit, I suppose, just in the same way I use the word God for what I consider to be the Ultimate Reality. To me—in my heart—the word God is also interchangeable with Spirit, Divine Source, Universe, Indwelling Presence (just to name a few)…the list could go on. I really believe that the concept of God is incomprehensible to our human minds (though not necessarily our hearts) but at the same time It/He/She is all that there is. I believe this Ultimate Reality is in everything and is in fact everything and we are part of It and It is part of us and in some unfathomable way we as humans live and move within this Reality and are connected to each other and everything and everyone is connected to us and everything in It. In short, I believe there is nowhere we can go where this Reality is not.

Split a piece of wood and I am there. Lift up a stone and you will find me there.” 
Gospel of Thomas, saying 77

Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.” 
Psalm 139:7-8
For one who sees Me everywhere and sees everything in Me, I am never lost, nor is he ever lost to Me.” 
Bagavad Gita 6:30
And how do I personally know that God exists? I see It/He/She reflected back at me when I look in the eyes of another fellow human. I feel Her when I see a person moved to tears…I know It when I am moved to tears. He is present in my heart when I help another person or if I see another person helping another. The Universe speaks to me when I feel a gentle breeze or rain on my face as I ride my bike, or when, amazingly, plants push through the spring soil after one of the harshest winters I can remember. And I even know this Reality when one of my beautiful dogs looks up at me with unconditional love the way that a canine does. I could go on, but you likely get the picture. Do I feel or know this Presence in my life all of the time? No, of course not. I’m a work in progress (but we all are). And that’s why I need helpers like this psalm to remind me.

And one last thing before I talk directly about the 23rd Psalm…I have to mention the J-word. Yup…Jesus. Because I know that if I’ve kept your attention long enough to read this far then there are at least a couple of you who are wondering what my views are on Jesus. I will only touch briefly on him because I have thoughts in my head about what I’d like to write and it could go on for pages and I don’t want to bore you with it now (but probably will in a later post). And another quick suggestion…if you are a literalist and you made it this far this may really be the time to click another link and get out of this page.

Firstly I would just like to say that while I believe that the Divine Spirit is part of each one of us and that we are part of It in equal measure, no matter what our race, religious background, gender, sexual orientation, etc….there is One Spirit that permeates all things, but at the same time I consider myself a Christian. And by this I mean that I try to follow the teachings of Jesus the Christ as best I can (but usually fail miserably on a daily basis). Do I think he was the only begotten son of God…no. Do I believe he died for our sins…nope. I’m not even convinced he died a physical death on the cross. Then what do I believe, you may be wondering? I believe that he was a divinely-inspired teacher who was trying to tell us how to live and that the life he lived was an example…pure love and compassion. He was truly enlightened in the same way that the Buddha was, and that he was telling us that if we did what he did we too could find heaven in this lifetime. So there it is.

Sorry for the long ramble, here—finally—is how I view this psalm, and what it means to me. To sum it up in just a sentence, this psalm makes me remember what is real and important in life, and that even when things seem hopeless I still am connected to and inseparable from the same Divine Source as you and the next person, and that I have this Source within me to know that deep down everything is just as it should be. The psalm is in bold and my thoughts/interpretations are in italics, and I have to emphasize that these are simply my personal thoughts. I am not trying to force them on anyone. Thank you for reading this far.



Psalm 23 

The Lord is my shepherd,

(The Divine Presence is all that there is. It dwells within all things including myself, and it guides me.) 

I shall not be in want.

(I have everything I need in life, including more food than I can eat, clothing to wear, a house to live in, and the love of family and friends.) 

He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters,

(Even though I am often tired and overworked and feel like there is no end in sight it is often an illusion, because I am allowed to take rests whenever I need to…sometimes it’s just a matter of turning inward. And when I do, through prayer, yoga, and meditation, I realize that I am on the shores of quiet waters.) 

He refreshes my soul.

(When I am at my most tired and stressed, when things seem hopeless, all I need is to remember the above three things and I can be refreshed. Turning inward and to remember what is really important in life.) 

He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake.

(I am guided by intuition, or “gut feeling,” the goodness that each one of us has written on our hearts. All I have to do is listen. And little by little It guides me to become the person that I was meant to be.) 

Even though I walk through the valley of darkness, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

(Everyone has dark times—and I could write a book here, right?—but knowing that our Divine Source is with me always reminds me that there truly is nothing to fear. This, and the fact that I know I am in some sometimes incompressible or unknowing way being guided, comforts me.) 

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.

(The table is my life spread out before me—where I truly do have everything I need—and my enemies are internal (fear, selfishness, envy, etc), and these can be overcome.) 

You anoint my head with oil;

(Because I, like each one of us, is a welcome guest at this time allotted for me on earth.) 

My cup overflows.

(I may not have everything I “want” but I surely have more than I truly need. My cup (life) is literally overflowing with goodness.) 

Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life,

(Life really is what you make it. If I offer goodness and love, then goodness and love are returned to me. All I have to do is be open and allow it to happen). 

and I will dwell in the house of the Lordforever.

(Yes, I am a Christian that believes in reincarnation. Thus, I have been connected to this same Source—and probably you too—in previous incarnations, this current one, and those to come. And I could go on about this, but I won’t) 

Amen.

Another face, another very real story…

For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.”
Matthew 25:35-36

This post is a continuation of one I wrote nearly a month ago regarding the homeless in our city (click here to read it). In that post I mentioned witnessing a women being verbally abused while asking a group of young party goers for some spare change, and also of a man I spoke with who asked me for money on a sunny Sunday afternoon. He told me that he worked full-time (for minimum wage) but still had to beg on the street to support himself. The image above is of Sarah. I met her today while out on my bike. When I saw her sign it was as if my bike stopped itself. After giving her some cash she seemed a bit apprehensive when I asked her if I could take her photo. I told her that I have a blog, work as a chef, and am also an interfaith minister…she then looked at me like I was a bit crazy (and rightly so). Anyhow, we both relaxed and we had a nice but brief chat, this is her story. She’s a single mom just as the sign reads. She and her daughter are currently squatting in an undisclosed vacant house with a few other people. They eat mainly at food pantries and with money she earns on the street. She became homeless after her father–in an alcoholic rage–threw her and his grand daughter out in the middle of the night. She has had difficulty getting/holding a job because she suffers from crohn’s disease and is concerned about her daughter’s safety. I have always been moved by seeing people on the street. And as a person of faith I literally cannot help but respond. But in my own personal view I am not doing enough. While I believe that all faiths speak the same truth, I call myself a Christian. And to me, being a Christian is not just about going to church on Sunday mornings, it is a call to action. If I truly were to live out the gospel I would have emptied my wallet to Sarah (OK, I nearly did…but trust me it wasn’t much; I rarely have more than a few dollars on me), or I would have helped in other ways. Tonight when I lay my head on my pillow in my own home with a full belly Sarah and her daughter will be in an abandoned home somewhere. And yes, I am fully aware that she and others I have spoken with and given cash to may be making this all up, that they may in fact be asking for money to support a drug or alcohol habit. But then again, maybe they are not. And if they are not I can’t help but wonder how I couldn’t be doing more. Because seriously, as you read this, think about it…what if their stories are true. I’ll get off my little soapbox now, but not before I ask you to watch the below video (it’s only a little over a minute long).

Urban Simplicity.

Tomorrow will worry about itself (because a little bird told me so)…

So this is interesting, or funny, or coincidental, or whatever. Without revealing too much personal information, these past few months have been difficult for me financially. And yesterday I was stressing about money (but what is money…just pieces of paper, right?) so I did what I often do and took a long walk with headphones and music. This usually helps. It did for the most part (I also stopped for a beer). Anyhow, on my way home I passed a bank that had recently closed (it seems weird to see a bank close; I didn’t know they did that) and the place where there was once an ATM machine was covered with plywood and had this graffiti on it. I laughed aloud to myself; I’m sure I looked like a crazy person to passersby. Anyhow, I thought I’d share this and a bit of scripture which came to mind as well.


 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?“And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin.Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

Matthew 6:25-34

Urban Simplicity.

 

Tomorrow will worry about itself (because a little bird told me so)…

So this is interesting, or funny, or coincidental, or whatever. Without revealing too much personal information, these past few months have been difficult for me financially. And yesterday I was stressing about money (but what is money…just pieces of paper, right?) so I did what I often do and took a long walk with headphones and music. This usually helps. It did for the most part (I also stopped for a beer). Anyhow, on my way home I passed a bank that had recently closed (it seems weird to see a bank close; I didn’t know they did that) and the place where there was once an ATM machine was covered with plywood and had this graffiti on it. I laughed aloud to myself; I’m sure I looked like a crazy person to passersby. Anyhow, I thought I’d share this and a bit of scripture which came to mind as well.

 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes?  Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these.  If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’  For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.  Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
Matthew 6:25-34

Urban Simplicity.

Five photos, two scriptures, a song, and a bad day made good…

So I had a “bad day” today. I know it sounds silly, but I did. Everyone has them from time-to-time, and today was my turn. It’s a very busy week for me at work and in my personal life and stress can really affect me in a negative way. I tend to internalize things. The thing is that I am fully aware that a person can choose how they want to feel. Yes it is true, and I fully believe this. But sometimes when I’m in the midst of stress and chaos I forget. All too often I forget. And when I left work today it was beautiful outside…still cold but the sun was out and the sky was blue. And I’ve mentioned this before but photography can, in a way, be a form of personal therapy for me. So I heeded my own previous advice and took a few photos of our Creator’s miracles that are right in front of me. But I have to say, and I even chuckled about it to myself (and that’s a good sign) that as I was removing my camera from its bag a lyric from the R.E.M. song, Bad Day, rang in my ears…”It’s been a bad day, please don’t take your picture.” (click here to watch them sing it live on Letterman) 

Anyhow, staring through the lens and really focusing on something has a calming effect on me. It really does. I’m sure it lowers my blood pressure. And as I took in the sights and sounds around me I couldn’t help but think how I had a change of mind. And that’s really all it takes sometimes…change your thoughts and change your world. And as I rode home feeling the cool air (cold, actually) on my face and taking in all the greatness that was right in front of me, all around me, and in fact within me, I felt grateful. And these two scriptures come to mind when I think of this.

“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

Romans 12:2
“Be sure to fix your mind on Me and to apply your intelligence for Me and you will live in Me for certain and never suffer any doubt thereafter.”

Bhagavad Gita 12:8 

And then later in the evening–just a few minutes before writing this post–I had a text conversation with a very dear friend of mine. A friend whom I treated poorly earlier in the day. We both forgave each other. And it made me remember what is truly real and what matters to me in this lifetime. People matter. So does beauty. So does love. Stress (fear) is unreal and something I fabricate myself. So if I am able to choose my thoughts and feelings, then I choose love and compassion. This is what I choose to start my day tomorrow (and to end my night tonight). It’s not always easy, but it is possible. Tomorrow is another day, and another very busy day for me, but it’s okay…I’ll view it as a challenge, one which is able to be overcome.

Urban Simplicity.

Five photos, two scriptures, a song, and a bad day made good…

So I had a “bad day” today. I know it sounds silly, but I did. Everyone has them from time-to-time, and today was my turn. It’s a very busy week for me at work and in my personal life and stress can really affect me in a negative way. I tend to internalize things. The thing is that I am fully aware that a person can choose how they want to feel. Yes it is true, and I fully believe this. But sometimes when I’m in the midst of stress and chaos I forget. All too often I forget. And when I left work today it was beautiful outside…still cold but the sun was out and the sky was blue. And I’ve mentioned this before but photography can, in a way, be a form of personal therapy for me. So I heeded my own previous advice and took a few photos of our Creator’s miracles that are right in front of me. But I have to say, and I even chuckled about it to myself (and that’s a good sign) that as I was removing my camera from its bag a lyric from the R.E.M. song, Bad Day, rang in my ears…”It’s been a bad day, please don’t take your picture.” (click here to watch them sing it live on Letterman)
Anyhow, staring through the lens and really focusing on something has a calming effect on me. It really does. I’m sure it lowers my blood pressure. And as I took in the sights and sounds around me I couldn’t help but think how I had a change of mind. And that’s really all it takes sometimes…change your thoughts and change your world. And as I rode home feeling the cool air (cold, actually) on my face and taking in all the greatness that was right in front of me, all around me, and in fact within me, I felt grateful. And these two scriptures come to mind when I think of this. 
“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”
“Be sure to fix your mind on Me and to apply your intelligence for Me and you will live in Me for certain and never suffer any doubt thereafter.”
And then later in the evening–just a few minutes before writing this post–I had a text conversation with a very dear friend of mine. A friend whom I treated poorly earlier in the day. We both forgave each other. And it made me remember what is truly real and what matters to me in this lifetime. People matter. So does beauty. So does love. Stress (fear) is unreal and something I fabricate myself. So if I am able to choose my thoughts and feelings, then I choose love and compassion. This is what I choose to start my day tomorrow (and to end my night tonight). It’s not always easy, but it is possible. Tomorrow is another day, and another very busy day for me, but it’s okay…I’ll view it as a challenge, one which is able to be overcome.


Urban Simplicity.

Thoughts on prayer (and what it means to me)

This is the second in a series I started a little over a month ago on positive scripture (click here to read the first). But first I have to state a very short disclaimer. I’ve said this before but feel I have to say it again. My personal theology is…um, well. Scratch that. Actually I am not quit sure what my theology is these days. But what I wanted to mention is that I take the bible almost entirely as metaphor, and that while I do consider myself a follower of the teachings of Jesus (which I usually fail miserably on a daily basis), I consider Him and His teachings a way, not the only way. That said, please do not send me hate mail or try to “save me.”

Anyhow, the scripture I wanted to highlight is Thessalonians 5:17 where Paul states that they/we should “pray continually.” This is the NIV version; the King James version states to “pray without ceasing.” Well that’s some pretty serious stuff. Or is it?

Over the years, like most I would assume, not only have I changed but so has my spirituality. How I see this now is to really live in a place of gratitude and to be in awe of life in general.

This passage–to pray without ceasing–is often taken and quoted out of context, just as I did. But the couple phrases just before and after this one are just as important, I think. 5:16 tells us that we should rejoice always; 5:18 says to give thanks in all circumstances, and 5:20 advises not to quench the spirit.

My interpretation of this is to really look on the bright side of life and enjoy every minute, and to take nothing for granted because everyday and every moment is a gift. Personally, I do try to do this, and many days I do. But some days are easier than others.

Sometimes it’s just simple things. Such as riding my bike at night and stopping to take photos on a cold night…feeling the wind on my face and being in touch with all that is around me. That to me is a way of praying; being in touch with the universe. Or talking to someone and looking in their eyes as they tell me a story and realizing that we, as everyone is, are all connected in some way. That to me is a form of praying as well. Sometimes at work while I’m juggling 10 or 12 pots on the stove and serving three parties at once and everything is running smoothly–and I am aware that it is running smoothly–I’ll acknowledge this ability that has been given to me, and be thankful for it; that to me is a form of prayer. Heck, even as I type these words–writing and thinking about prayer–can be a form of prayer. Sometimes–I really believe–just saying thank you is enough.

If the only prayer you said was thank you, that would be enough.”
~Meister Eckhart

So personally I really believe that everything we do can be a form of prayer if we are conscious of it.
My life is my message.
And that is the most difficult part, I believe…is to be conscious of things. Being conscious of our connectedness to one another and what we do and think affects others in some way. Being conscious of the beauty that is all around us, whether you are in the city or country. And of course being conscious of the Divine Spirit, Universe, or Source (or whatever name you choose to use) that is not only our life source but also in what we live, move, and breath.
Prana (prāṇa) is the Sanskrit word for both breath and life-force.

Ahh…but this is the most difficult part isn’t…being actively conscious of it. Sometimes this is so difficult. Sometimes–many times–I forget. And sometimes when this happens I may have an open–if not agitated–mind but a closed heart. I’ll relay a very brief and abridge story about this.

For varying reasons, some events that have happened in my life over the past few days have been the perfect concoction–the perfect storm, if you will–to bring me down. Down so low that I could not feel or see the beauty around me, and the Divine Presence all but got up and went away..or so I thought and felt. It was not quite a feeling of despair but it certainly was not the feeling of gratitude that I so prefer. It was as if I were surrounded by a grey cloud and not sure whether I would scream or cry. 

So tonight I decided to go to the health club for a power swim (to release endorphins) and a steam, which I find relaxing. When I arrived at the club I saw that the pool was closed for repairs. “Perfect,” my negative self muttered aloud, “why doesn’t this surprise me.” But I thought I’d go in and sit in the steam room anyhow. There was no one in there, which was a relief as I didn’t feel like talking. After cranking up the steam I decided to meditate for a few minutes and repeat my personal mantra. This of course is a more formal type of prayer to me. 

And as I breathed in the hot cleansing steam I let it slowly permeate my body and then let it out into the universe. Doing this and slowly repeating my sacred word began to relax me. After doing this for about ten minutes I was lost in my head (so-to-speak) and no longer aware of my surroundings. But then I was brought back when a big hot drip of water dropped from the ceiling and landed squarely on my balding head (no joke). It startled me but also made me smile. Then, being aware of my surroundings but still with my eyes closed, I expanded my senses. I could hear the sound of the steam. Feel its heat and wetness on my skin. And hear the chatter of people talking beyond the door and in the locker room. I emerged from the tiny steam room cleansed in more than the traditional sense.

Shortly thereafter, on my ride home my pores were still open as I pedaled and coasted in the late autumn’s night. The chilly air felt jarring at first, but good. I felt lighter. And looking up at the night sky watching as the clouds passed I realized that my grey cloud had lifted, too. Entirely, no, but some. Was I “cured” of my melancholy all together…of course not. But I did feel better in many ways. I felt connected. Connected to nature, to people, but most importantly to our Source.
I guess whet I’m really trying to say in this ramble is that prayer does “work.” I really believe this. It can be transforming and at the same time can mean many things. All of life can be a prayer, the key is to be aware of this (and with this, I speak mostly to myself). And with this I leave you with a simple quote which I think sums it all up…
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“The function of prayer is not to influence God, but rather to change the nature of the one who prays.”
Søren Kierkegaard
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More Positive Scripture

Positive Scripture…

So first…a couple of things. One is that if you’ve been to this blog you know a few things about me. I like bread, yes; I prefer to ride a bike rather than drive a car, yes; but also that I–like so many others–am on a spiritual journey (but we all are whether we admit it or not). And you also know that I enjoy series of things on this blog…my oldest and most popular is Things that can be Carried on a Bike, but there is also the Five Quotes series, the View from My Handlebars series, and the brief Past and Present series. Today I am beginning a new series on positive scripture passages. I’ll likely post it sporadically or whenever the spirit moves me to do so. While I do believe that there is only One Source of us all, the religion of my birth and the one which I most closely identify with is Christianity, so for this reason I’ll be posting selections from the Bible; mostly the New Testament. The Bible, for some (myself included) carries so much baggage, and there are sections that can be twisted to mean truly bad stuff. But I personally do not feel that is why it was written…the word Gospel, of course, mean Good News in English, and thus I feel it was it’s original intention….to bring good news, not law or oppression. Anyhow, I am not a fundamentalist, nor am I a literalist…I tend to read the Bible mostly as metaphor (to read more about “where I’m at” click here). The reason I mention this is that my intention is not to offend anyone by what I post in this series or the commentary (if any) I accompany with it. If I do add any thoughts they are not intended to tell you how you should feel, nor are they intended in any way to “convert” you; they are simply thoughts on how a particular passage speaks to me. You, in turn, are welcome to comment, but please no negativity. And please do not send me hate mail or try to save me; in my view no saving is needed as we are all children of the One Divine Source. With this said, here’s the first Positive Scripture.

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.
~Philippians 4:8 

I chose this as the first in this series because I believe this to be so powerful, and is fully aligned with the New Thought Movement. The only thing that I’ll add is that I can personally attest that in my life when I think of good things apposed to negative things, then good things happen. But even if they don’t, life is much better. It has taken me many years to do this–and I’m not enlightened yet–but it’s true, light overcomes darkness. Thinking good thoughts really does–to me–have positive results, even when things are not going as planned.

Urban Simplicity.