The Institute For Living

Tag: wisdom

Room for Compromise?

by on Jul.26, 2011, under Core Values, News Commentary, Politics/Economics, Relationships, Spirituality

I saw two rooms: one sat vacant, the other was overflowing with two groups of people — one unlike the other.

I questioned why one room sat vacant while the other room had plenty of space for discussion.

My answer came: “We are waiting for discussion between the two groups.”

But no discussion happened.

So one room sat vacant, while the other room was overflowing with two groups of people.

There is no right way to do the wrong thing.

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When the Answers are Hidden

by on Mar.26, 2011, under Core Values, News Commentary, Politics/Economics, Spirituality

In today’s 140-character, soundbite world, we often miss the deeper meaning of the events unfolding around us. When I was going to school, a major curriculum requirement was the study of Shakespeare’s works. The very point of studying his works was that the value was in wrestling with difficult questions –not rushing to easy answers.

And so it was with Jesus, the Christ, whose parables rendered life-giving principles that profoundly confused and disturbed the rulers of his day. His “asset value” was not valued; in fact, it was so profoundly devalued that he was killed. And yet, two centuries later, we set our calendars by the event of his being, and his teachings provide the moral compass for many of us.

In Mark 11:13, he said that although there were no figs on the tree, the value was there. The answers were hidden from those who were only willing to spend 140 characters to find them.

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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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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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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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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 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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I’ll Have the Cherry Pie, but Not the Chocolate Cake

by on Sep.13, 2010, under Core Values, News Commentary, Politics/Economics

In these days of obesity, it wouldn’t make a lot of sense to skip the chocolate cake and eat the cherry pie if we want to lose weight. Clearly, we must reduce all of the sweets and calories in our diet in order to accomplish our goal.

And yet in our goal of social harmony our strategy is just like eating one dessert while forsaking another. That is absolutely fine as long as we do not fool ourselves into thinking that we will accomplish our goal of peace and prosperity. The “weight loss” of excess tension and turmoil can only be realized by giving up both the cherry pie and the chocolate cake.

These desserts are being used here as metaphors for the prejudices that we like to hold on to (some unconsciously) against people who belong to “other” groups than we do. There is almost an infinite variety of groups among which we can divide and identify ourselves. These differences can enrich us — like the flowers in a garden — or they can be used to play the zero sum game.

Recent events, centered around the Muslim community, are really no different that many previous forms of prejudice focused on other groups. The gift from the Universe is that what we have not seen before, perhaps  we will begin to see now; the Universe brings us many teachers. Unless and until we decide to go on the diet of “love thy neighbor as thyself”, we cannot achieve the goal of peace and prosperity. Instead, the energy of love will be sapped by the energy of fear, producing destruction.

Scripture says God is love and we cannot love God — whom we have not seen –  and hate our brother who we see everyday. That is dishonesty.

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Thanks for the Pain

by on Nov.25, 2009, under Core Values, Spirituality

Tomorrow, people across the U.S. will gather together for Thanksgiving Day.  Most of us will reflect upon the good things and good people that have been in our lives for the past year, and we will express our gratitude to the One who provides these gifts to us.  It is a day of gratefulness and appreciation.

This year, as you count your blessings, remember to include the painful elements of life.

I know that it sounds a bit odd, but remember to give thanks for the unpleasant times you have had along with the pleasant ones; show appreciation for your painful experiences along with the joyful ones.  Good times and pleasant people are easy to appreciate because they give us happy feelings, but bad times and dificult experiences are also vital to our health, for they compel us to grow.

For instance, what are the possible end results when a romantic relationship passes through a difficult stretch?  Either the couple will stay together through the ordeal and find their love for one another deepened through the shared experience, or they will realize that the relationship has no staying power, and each will go his or her own way.  Is not either outcome preferable to a shallow, stagnant relationship?  Or think about difficult economic times.  While we prefer the ease and comfort of wealth, it is when we financially struggle that we learn to appreciate what we have.  Rough economic times force us honestly to sort through our priorities as we stretch our resources, and having less money available to run all around town means that we end up spending more quality time with our families.

The same kinds of blessings may be found in any type of hardship.  In losing those things and people that made us comfortable, we begin a journey into the unknown that provides us with freedom, growth and change.  Entering into new life is difficult and painful, but it is good for us; it grants us wisdom and understanding and experience, all of which help us to become better people.  Profound insights emerge from the depths of despair, if we are open to them.

This Thanksgiving, as you list the blessings in your life, remember to give thanks for your sorrows.  They may not be pleasant to experience, but if you have the wisdom to learn, they are shaping you into a better human being.

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