The Institute For Living

Tag: belonging

Living on the Other Side of Fear

by on Feb.09, 2011, under Core Values, News Commentary, Politics/Economics, Relationships, Spirituality

Wouldn’t it be nice to live without fear in our lives? Most of us live with fear from our personal lives to our cultural and global experiences.

At the personal level, we have the threats of sickness, financial hardship, interpersonal conflict and outside disruption — just to name a few. As we move to the larger group levels, political, economic, ethnic and other factors set the basis for our fears.

In all these cases, the core energy of fear is juxtaposed against the energy of love. Although the genesis of our lives is love, we lose our way and give power to fear so early in our journeys. Why is that? Why do we so readily abandon the power of love for the seduction of fear? It must be compelling in its alluring promises, or we wouldn’t be captivated by its charm.

People are drawn into abusive relationships because at some point there are charming qualities that promise to satisfy. And so it is with all the wares of fear.

But there is hope!

Psalm 111:10 and Job 28:28 teach us that the only appropriate fear is for the ultimate source of all sources. Connection to source is resource.

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Love Says No

by on Feb.06, 2011, under Core Values, Politics/Economics, Relationships, Spirituality

One of the most compelling energy forces in our lives is love. We want to give it and receive it more than anything else. For most of us this is true at the most personal level and at group levels. All of our religious or spiritual traditions have some basis in love. “God is love” and “Love your neighbor as you love yourself ” are cornerstones in the Christian faith. Certainly, no church or spiritual group would expect to build a following by proclaiming that their central energy provided no validation or support for them in their deepest places of being.

The sense that when we are at our most vulnerable state, we are enraptured by an energy called love is what gives us ultimate hope. It defines the bookends between despair and assurance. This warm blanket with which we can wrap ourselves even in our darkest nights is vital for our survival. But is that the only quality of love?

I shall never forget the night when one of my sons sat on the bedside and asked if he could wander off into the hillside the next day alone. I knew that he was a good child who had nothing but the best of intentions. (I had taken him with me to a job-related conference at a state resort center.) The day before I had told him to go with a companion so that if any accident occurred one of them could come back and alert us. He wanted to go alone because he and the other fellow had divergent agendas.

I had to say no.

As much as I knew he would be angry, I had to say no. I had to say no, because I knew things he didn’t know. I had to say no, because I loved him too much to allow bad things to happen to him. I had to say no because if some tragedy were to happen to him, I would be absolutely heartbroken, because I love him.

So often, children do not see the big picture. They only want what they want; went they want it; and they want it now! Sometimes they will get angry when love says no. They may even run away in disgust.

When children are little babies we show our love with milk and diapers, but as they grow older, those symbols give way to curfews and learners permits. Our love is constant, but as the child matures — and begins to realize his/her dreams — along come new opportunities with boundaries and discipline.

And so it is with all of us. Revelation 3:19 says those who I love I rebuke and chasten. The great invisible hand of the universe must steer the interactions of billions of people all over the world. Imagine what it would be like without some loving intervention to bring order to the chaos of our myopic selfishness. It was once said, “Your freedom to swing your hand stops at the tip of my nose.”

We live in limited time and space. It is inevitable that in pursuit of my selfish goals I will infringe upon the freedom of someone else. Sometimes I will do it intentionally, other times I will do it unintentionally. In either case, the damage remains. I have often said, “a girl is just as dead whether I intended to run over her or not.” We are so limited by the breadth, depth, and other dimensions of knowledge — beyond our imagination — that we must rely on a source outside ourselves for love’s guidance.

So often, in seeking guidance, we pray. Our prayer, though, is guided by our own desires. Matthew 6:10 says, “Thy will be done…”, but rather than coming into conformity with the sovereignty of the creator, we attempt to make him conform. How arrogant: to try to make the creator of all that is, a prop in our off-Broadway reality play — and call it prayer.

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We Have no King But Caesar

by on Dec.07, 2010, under Core Values, News Commentary, Politics/Economics

Caesar represents money, power and control; how seductive are those qualities. As we move into the Christmas season, we are presented with the Christ who represents the alternative: love.

But he was despised and rejected of men, and we hid our faces from him. He was a wine bibber and a friend of publicans and sinners. He identified himself with the suffering and those less fortunate. Who would want to be in his club when offered the choice to fraternize with Caesar’s court?

So when the babe of Christmas was offered up to death, the judge said, “I offer you the king”, but the people said, “we have no king but Caesar.”

His mother cried.

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When Love Walks In

by on Oct.29, 2010, under Core Values, General Updates, Politics/Economics, Relationships, Spirituality

I’ll never forget the time when my oldest son was about 15 years old and he had done something that made me so angry I was seeing fire (I cannot remember his crime, because forgiveness has washed it away). I had determined that when I went to pick him up I would give him the tongue lashing of his life. Something strange happened, though: the moment he came walking toward my car, feelings of love washed over me. All I could say to myself was, “Yeah, that’s my son!”

At that moment, whatever he had done didn’t really seem to matter when measured against the lifetime love that I have for him. Events will pass; love stays.

We all know that among our families and friends we have numerous experiences where friction occurs. The true measure of our love — of various kinds and dimensions — is our ability to deal with those tests and trials constructively or destructively.

Often relationships are based on rules. A rigidity around those rules is the cause of the end of many relationships. However, when love walks end, patience, kindness, understanding, and other qualities help us enlarge our tent to embrace each other in our humanity.

Many people feel that rules are necessary to have order in and  among a group of people. And they are right. If we stop there, however, it becomes somewhat like a bed frame without a mattress. And certainly we are left without a warm quilt for long winter nights. When love walks in, our humanity is recognized, and we feel protected –not just supported.

People in the Christian faith often use the Ten Commandments as the basis of their living. The paradox, though, is that the very churchmen who were the arbiters of that code of law killed its heir — thus rendering the law null and void.

Before this heinous crime was committed, though, that master teacher said, “I’ll trade you ten commandments for two: just love God with all your heart, and love your neighbor as yourself.”

When we begin to understand that all of the chaos and abuse we are experiencing from the personal to the group to the national and international levels is coming from this one stem, then we will be on our way.

Fear and Love sit at opposites: one destroying the other.

Our economic policies, our culture wars, and our political struggles all reflect our inability to let love walk in.

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Major sponsor to ‘limit’ Woods’ role

by on Dec.12, 2009, under News Commentary, Politics/Economics

Tiger Woods, on his Web site Friday, admitted to infidelity and said he is taking "an indefinite break" from professional golf to focus on his family. This story is a major "water cooler" conversation. People love to gossip and render opinions about these kinds of situations. I have even heard news commentators suggest that we must "forgive" Tiger for what he has done. This is -- in part -- responding to his statement of contrition. Still, I find it amazing for me to think I have anything to forgive. After all, whatever did or did not happen is really a private matter between him and his wife. Whatever forgiveness there is to be done, must be done between Tiger's family, himself, and his God. I must stay clear of the situation. Too often, we spend an inordinate amount of energy and attention on weighing in on the private struggles of other families. This energy could be better spent in humility, recognizing that whenever a member of the family of humanity is weakened it points to the weakness of us all. My spiritual energy is best spent, therefore, in self-examination: what personal struggles -- spoken or unspoken -- should I be dealing with?
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Question of the Week – Loneliness

by on Dec.04, 2009, under Question of the Week, Relationships

We humans have a fundamental need to belong; we need to feel emotionally connected to others.  When we do not experience enough human contact in our lives, we feel lonely.  Loneliness is especially common following the death of a loved one or the ending of a relationship, or when a person spends much of his or her time at home.  Loneliness may be spiritually enlightening, but it could also lead to a self-perpetuating cycle of depression.  That is why it is essential for those who do feel loved to seek out and extend a hand to those who are becoming disconnected.  A little bit of human kindness and compassion may prevent a great deal of anguish.

What elements in your life distract you from noticing those with social needs?  When you do notice someone who might be lonely, what fears cause you to hesitate in engaging him or her?  How valid are those fears?  When you begin to feel lonely, does receiving a phone call, a visit from a friend or a pleasant conversation make a difference?  Who do you know right now who could use some extra support?

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Moving from Lists to Belonging

by on Nov.30, 2009, under Core Values, Politics/Economics

A resolution that has a list of ten covenants has been drafted by one of the U.S. political parties.  Each of its members must agree to at least eight of these covenants or be denied party support.  The requirement for concurrence with only eight out of ten is intended to show an allowance for diversity.  However, the entire notion of explicit standards for membership raises interesting questions about true allegiance.  Although almost all groups and societies have their creeds or organizing documents, it is not clear that written standards establish loyalty or belonging.

In the Christian faith, Jesus the Christ came along and challenged the Ten Commandments, which had long held the position of being the foundation of the faith.  Instead, he said, “If you love your creator and love all created ones just as you love yourself, you will have reached your goal.”

Anyone who has been in love knows that you cannot capture the qualities for love on a checklist.  Oh, you can write up a checklist, but when you meet the right person, you will throw the checklist out the window.  Why?  Because love in its essence cannot be captured on paper.  The energy that fuels and maintains love is not two-dimensional or even three-dimensional; it has more dimensions than could possibly be captured in physical space.

And so it is when we extrapolate people’s loyalty to a group.  The true essence of loyalty cannot be captured on two-dimensional paper or based on explicit standards.  If we try to reduce membership to such criteria, we miss the point.

Actual belonging — whether in a one-on-one relationship or in a larger group — is a function of the heart.  It happens at soul level.  That can never be put on paper.

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