The Institute For Living

Tag: Spirituality

The “G” Factor

by on Jul.19, 2012, under Core Values, News Commentary, Politics/Economics, Spirituality

God is the G Factor in the equation. We are the variables. The G Factor is constant; the variables constantly search for meaning and the co-efficient of determination.

The G Factor always has been; always will be — in whom there is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.

THE I AM THAT I AM.

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Integrity at the Core

by on Feb.11, 2012, under Core Values, News Commentary, Politics/Economics, Relationships, Spirituality

Once I had a conversation with a lady who had come to talk about a potential home improvement product. Our conversation spontaneously began with talk about the state of affairs in the country and the world. We seemed to have automatically been in synch with each other — understanding, agreeing with and applauding our mutual desire for a better dialogue than that which we were hearing day to day.

After this warm, heart-to-heart dialogue, though, it was time to “get down to business.” I was struck by how dramatically her mood shifted from one of seeming to care about the plight of people to one of wanting to make money.

This is not an indictment against her. Rather, it is an observation of the bigger system in which she and countless other people live, in which their lives are compartmentalized. In Box A is their genuine concern about the soul level issues of people and their well being — evidenced by the outpouring of good deeds when natural disasters strike. In Box B, though, is a totally contrary behavior that silently speaks, “I’ve got to do my part to make a profit — whatever it takes.”

I suppose most people are not even aware of the conflicting dialogues taking place by their two internal boxes. They literally, ‘just go along to get along.’  I have read stories of some people who, when they became aware of the conflict, lost their jobs by trying to quietly bring justice within the system that was designed to bring profits.  Make no mistake: resolving the conflict is no simple task or it would already be the predominant paradigm.

Ultimately, the mega systems must resonate with the ultimate system. When there is lack of integrity disturbances occur.

One person said that “passion” was the basis for his career, while “purpose” was the basis for his life. It takes a lot of courage to bring those two disconnected circles into synchronization with each other. And everyone may not be able to achieve 100% synchronization. It is a journey. Leaving them totally separate, though, may be like the married man who says, “Passion is my mistress, while purpose is my wife and family.”

Being “on purpose” is what integrity is all about. It may not be easy, because there are surrounding systems where the water is dirty. But integrity is about “wholeness.” It is not about legalism or moralism, or someone’s list of standards.  Integrity is about clarity of purpose.  Scripture says, “Be perfect.” That doesn’t mean living up to someone’s standard of righteousness, because other scriptures teach us that “all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.”  There are numerous other scriptures that negate a notion of righteousness based on one’s ability to measure up to some arbitrary standard of living –established by some fallible group of people (who are not perfect).

What perfection, or integrity, does mean is the completeness illustrated by a circle: it is whole and cannot be broken. At core level, when we strive for integrity we will always exhibit love, because it is perfect.

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I’m Just a Flute

by on Apr.22, 2011, under Core Values, News Commentary, Politics/Economics, Relationships, Spirituality

A flute is one of the smallest instruments in the orchestra, and yet its sounds are among the most pleasing to the ear. Sometimes the sound of a flute is like that of a bird dancing about the orchestral score. It adds life and brilliance to the fullness of the music that surrounds us.

When I think of my life purpose, I can use the metaphor of a flute to capture my role. I am dumb like a flute. The finest flute in the world is just a dumb instrument. Often we flatter ourselves based on our education, our financial stature or other worth-giving attributes; but I am dumb like a flute.

A flute can be kicked around, scratched, bruised, and thrown in the corner. But in the hands of a Master it makes the finest music. The Master creates the music; not the flute.

When I recognize my role as an instrument, I (1) preserve my integrity and sacredness, but (2) keep my ego in check. The Master will create the Universal Symphony if I will just do my part.

“Lord, make me an instrument of thy peace” is a commonly used mantra. A totally different metaphor is “instruments of war.” These two stand in stark contrast to each other.

If I try to create music independent from the Master, I create chaos. It is the breath of the Master that gives life to the flute. Enharmonic overtones occur when the breath of Master and the structure of the flute are not in sync.

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Now is the Moment

by on Mar.04, 2011, under Core Values, Politics/Economics, Relationships, Spirituality

When we’re experiencing trials and tribulations we always pray that the suffering will end and “that moment” will come when God will show us favor.

Walking in victory requires that we redefine our perspective. We must learn to value the affliction as much as we would value what we would perceive as the deliverance. Circumstances really are “value neutral.”

For instance, rain is neither bad nor good. The city dweller may call it bad, while the farmer calls it good. In fact, it just “is.” Furthermore, the city dweller will suffer if the farmer does not get rain for his crops.

Learning to embrace suffering as joy is not easy, but it is essential for the victorious life. The faith walk is based upon the knowing that stepping off into the unknown leads to new knowledge — preparing for more robust living (or abundant living).

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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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The Story of Numbers

by on Feb.04, 2011, under Core Values, News Commentary, Politics/Economics, Spirituality

We all think of numbers as the basis of truth. Often, in arguments about big issues one side will say, “Well, show me the numbers.” In fact, one of the biggest splits in public policy are those areas that are supported by numbers vs. those areas that are only buttressed by feelings.

The “soft” sciences — the social sciences — and religion are often cast aside because they cannot be supported with rigor or mathematical precision. We all know that 2+2=4. It always does and always will. There is no room for judgment, feelings or opinion. It’s just the facts, thank you very much!

In fact, corporations and large institutions have moved toward the appearance of great fairness and equity by proclaiming “data-driven decision making” as their mantra.  Of course, there’s an old joke that says, “my mind’s made up; don’t confuse me with the facts.” Perhaps that joke betrays the story behind the story.

There’s another old saying, “Statistics don’t lie, but men lie with statistics.” In fact, statistics is all about storytelling. It is grounded in the algorithm: “Tell me what I want to hear; not what I need to hear.”

The reality of the story of numbers is that it is a story of power. The story is written by those with power and told by those without the power.  But under whose authority are the numbers generated? Hebrews 4:12, 13 suggests that someone knows the real numbers.

Columnist Eugene Robinson reportedly said, “Bargains with the devil never end well.” Perhaps he only told a part of the story. Perhaps the difference in power and authority is that power tells a story with numbers, while authority lets the numbers tell the story. According to Jeremiah 8, the arbiter of the universe grades with justice and equity for all.

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Limited by Knowledge

by on Jan.29, 2011, under Core Values, Politics/Economics, Relationships, Spirituality

PhD graduates realize that they have only developed the tools to begin exploration of knowledge in whatever is their field of study.

The paradox of learning is that to the outside world they have reached the top in their field, and yet they have “only just begun.”

Ephesians 3:20 says he will “do exceeding abundantly above all we can ask or think.” When we realize that the opening of our minds to the universal spirit brings us limitless opportunities, then we take off the boundaries.

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But for the Grace of God, There Go I

by on Dec.15, 2010, under Core Values, Politics/Economics, Spirituality

This title phrase is a very common phrase, and perhaps its meaning is different for each person who reads it. Legend has it that a person of significance was walking past a drunkard lying along the street and said, “But by the grace of God, there I am.”

Rather than looking at the drunkard with disdain and disgust, as we would often react, something triggered his response to connect with this person as if he were but a part of himself. Another well known cultural idiom, Six Degrees of Separation, suggests that we are connected to everyone else on the planet by no more than six degrees of separation. This sense of connectedness stands in sharp contrast to the narcissism that plagues our society and prevents conflict resolution.

Although we are each birthed through a unique birth canal, we really are part of the whole cloth of humanity. When we come to understand this, it changes our entire feeling about life and how we interact with other people. Our self worth can no longer be derived from houses, cars, education, physical appearance or other material assets. Instead we realize that we are part of the universe. We realize that we can do no better and no worse than the universal good.

Oh, all of those material assets and attributes are convenient set points from which to engage with other sojourners, but not to define our worth. Those are fluctuating value points that are not reliable.

Reliability is attained when we push beyond those boundaries into non-fluctuating currencies.

One of the most powerful phrases in the Lord’s Prayer says, “Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.” As we push beyond the boundaries of debts and debtors to the concept of oneness we begin to move toward reliability.

Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall. It is the wise man who sees the drunkard as one with himself, and forgives his debt, so that he may be forgiven.

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When Greed Cries for Compassion

by on Nov.28, 2010, under Core Values, News Commentary, Politics/Economics, Spirituality

It has long seemed a paradox to me that people who had wronged me would later come to me for compassion when they were being wronged by someone else. I think, for example, of a past job where a supervisor had done many injustices to me. Yet, she felt no hesitancy in confiding in me when she was hurting because of wrongdoing that other people did to her in the organization.

Of course, I listened with compassion and offered her what help I could, because I believe that love and forgiveness is the ultimate solution for our problems.

Nevertheless, I kept my amusement to myself: why would she turn to me — the person she had mistreated — for solace and understanding during her time of trial? This is the paradox of the universe.

This paradox was eloquently displayed by Mr. Bernanke last week (as reported by Time.com) on the subject of Rebalancing the Global Recovery. A simplified paraphrase of his thesis suggests that since the pace of recovery is greater for the emerging market economies than it is for the advanced economies, there must be a voluntary co-operation to achieve balance.

That same — very reasonable — thesis does not seem to apply in Mr. Bernanke’s homeland. If that same penetrating economic analysis were applied stateside, then the same compassion that we are calling for in the international community would be applied to those less fortunate among us.

One phenomenon I have always noticed is that conservatism  seems to be a characteristic of people as they increase their wealth, whereas generosity is one of the truths of the less affluent. Of course, “charity” is commonplace among the wealthy, so long as it is tax structured. There is a spiritual difference in business giving and giving from the heart: God will judge.

So either the root of the tree can  be full of life, or it can be full of decay. The branches and the leaves might take years before they betray a dying tree.

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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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