Live Victoriously

Americans live in a fast-paced society.  We’re used to a 24/7 news cycle with instant updates.  Media conglomerates promote “web speed” for professionals and all Americans alike.  Internet surfers become impatient if websites take too long to load.  On social media there are millions and millions who participate in the minute by minute snapshots of life.  On many TV channels images move fast and change rapidly.  Audiences are bombarded with sound bites that are entertaining, but don’t tell the whole story.  News is presented in 15 or 30-second segments like commercials.  Such fare is backed up by weekly polling and telephone interviews to monitor the public’s sentiments.

Radio and TV call-in talk shows demand answers right away, and give callers quick feedback about education, religion, the economy, health, and disasters.  Much of this information is sent via pictures on Smart phones.  Americans are used to cutting corners, logging on, tuning in, and dialing up for services.  We live in an age of instant gratification.  By pressing a few buttons some people use the Grindr app on their cell-phones to find dates.  Around the nation millions stream videos.  DVDs come from Netflix that has more than 8-million mail subscribers.  Shoppers receive services on the same day and there are self-checkout lines in stores that keep customers moving.  Walmart has Walmart-To-Go, and Amazon is known for expedited shopping. People are used to fast foods from drive thru-windows at McDonald’s, Hardee’s and Wendy’s.  

Age of Mediocrity

Critics think that quick fixes might result in nimble thinking.  Educators feel learning takes time, and repetition by students to really get it.  But Americans appear convinced that “snail mail” is out.  They could email friends and coworkers and use instant messaging.  Consumers are used to paying a bit more for overnight shipping.  We have become a society of texting and tweeting.  Some social media accept no more than 140 characters per tweet.  What you have to say, say it fast, and in a sound bite.  To some, dating is speed-dating.  No longer is it required to know a person before deciding on a date.  Gadgets and more gadgets have become the name of the game.  David Duchovny (b. 1960) wrote, “I’m kind of stupid when it comes to gadgets.”  Was Duchovny saying that he has allowed gadgets to rule his life?  Or, does he mean that he’s stupid when it comes to knowing what gadgets could really do?

Since all events are happening so fast it leaves us wondering what’s next.  In trying to multitask are we forming bad habits of dependency on gadgets?  Does our impatience in demanding things now lead to health problems like diabetes, high blood pressure, and obesity by relying on fast foods?  Must we blame capitalism and consumerism for dishing out these sources faster and faster?  How must we view our dependency on technological devices?  These are surely challenging problems.  A record producer, conductor and 27-time Grammy winner Quincy Jones (b. 1933) said, “I have all the tools and gadgets.  I tell my son, who’s a producer, ‘You never work for the machine; the machine works for you.’”  Is this the lesson we must take away about inventions that keep speeding up our lives?  Should Americans pick and choose from the technological onslaught that works best for them?  But aren’t we failing at this? 

Christian Insights

To Christians being wise should be the key when making decisions about American culture.  Patience is a virtue, but society’s growing impatience could be a bad thing if not checked.  Despite speed everywhere, a believer might be concerned that Americans are heading down the wrong road.  But Christians say, “God is in control.”  Why must they allow ourselves to deteriorate because of demands placed on us by gadgets?  Christians should learn to cultivate patience – the capacity to endure hardship, difficulty, or inconvenience.  Daily devotion is essential.  By reflecting and praying for wisdom, seek God’s grace.  By being dedicated to their faith believers are able to discover peace, love, joy and fulfillment.  They know that instant gratification is never the answer to understanding life’s problems.   

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God’s Creation

Make a joyful noise for the gift of our salvation.  Come before him with thanksgiving for the Lord is a great God.  “The sea is his, and he made it: and his hands formed the dry land” (Ps. 95:5).  He has sown light for the righteous and gladness for the upright in heart.  People must therefore rejoice and give thanks for his holiness.  God has established the world by his wisdom and stretched out the heavens by his discretion.  The Lord asked, “Can any hide himself in secret places that I shall not see him?” (Jer. 23:24).  God is the author of life.

An Indian spiritual master Sai Baba (1835–1918), regarded by his devotees as a saint said, “Look out into the universe and contemplate the glory of God.  Observe the stars, millions of them, twinkling in the night sky, all with a message of unity, part of the nature of God.”  This unity manifests itself in human populations throughout the face of the earth.  From mountain tops to valleys below, how magnificent is our omniscient God!  Thomas Aquinas (1225–1274), an Italian Roman Catholic priest wrote, “Better to illuminate than merely to shine, to deliver others contemplated truths than merely to contemplate.”  Praise God in meditation.  Let your eyes be opened in knowing the truth of his Word.  These gifts illuminate the earth like stars shining brightly in the night sky.

Meditation of the Invisible

In meditation there are things we should realize about God.  Simone Weil (1909–1943), a French philosopher and Christian mystic said, “We can only know one thing about God – that he is what we are not.  Our wretchedness alone is an image of this.  The more we contemplate it, the more we contemplate him.”  People should learn the Lord’s goodness by discovering him.  It’s by knowing him believers will begin to understand themselves.  This gift is attained by studying the Word.  Eventually there will be a time of reckoning.  Zig Ziglar (1926–2012), an author and motivational speaker wrote, “We hear tears loudly on this side of Heaven.  What we don’t take time to contemplate are the even louder cheers on the other side of death’s valley.”  This is the place where Christian believers will rejoice in the victory won. 

This everlasting joy won’t have people think like Paul Theroux (b. 1941), a travel writer and novelist, who said, “Death is an endless night so awful to contemplate that it can make us love life and value it with such passion that it may be the ultimate cause of all joy and all art.”  Unlike Theroux believers will look forward to the day when they depart this world to be with their Savior in heaven.  This promises to be an extraordinary day beyond their imagination.

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Compassionate Living

Compassion and tolerance are not a sign of weakness, but a sign of strength.

—Tenzin Gyatso, 14th Dalai Lama

The Dalai Lama’s An Appeal to the World is a moving primer of his message for the 21st century. In an interview with television journalist Franz Alt, His Holiness the Dalai Lama addressed both the inward and outward paths of peace, war, climate change, materialism, meditation, universal ethics, and even neuroscience.  His Holiness discussed six principles: 1) nonviolence—of which he has become a symbol to free Tibet; 2) tolerance—he envisions no peace unless there is peace among religions; 3) every religion’s uniqueness; 4) the meaning of religion today—the Dalai Lama sees a religious believer as one who collaborates in preserving the earth; 5) patience—His Holiness is working on this virtue; and 6) death and rebirth—of which he has no clue what will happen.

Still the Dalai Lama presents the world with a “childlike faith” in political miracles saying, “One day we will cooperate well with China.” He put his greatest hope on China’s young people, and the 400 million who are Buddhists. His Holiness viewed the 65 years of Chinese Communism as an enormous spiritual void, as compared with 1,300 years of Tibetan Buddhism.

Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life by Karen Armstrong was also most pertinent for the 21st century too. Armstrong uses the Golden Rule as the foundation of her discourse on what it means to live compassionately. She envisioned twelve steps, but thought that such an approach could take a life time. In the introduction to the text readers are introduced to the major faith traditions, and concepts based on compassion.  Later Armstrong weaved these steps carefully by explaining what people ought to do to benefit from them. At each step they are presented with a discussion about how to use each teaching. These compassionate goals were carefully calibrated, and based on the major religions. Although every goal could stand alone, Armstrong was able to integrate the goals of each affirmation with an explanation.

This book was able to relate each topic to contemporary issues. Armstrong recognized all of us have problems with which we are struggling. She explained how important it was for us to transcend the thinking about ourselves. Armstrong wrote that people should reach out to the good and bad aspects of life alike. People should treat others the way they would like to be treated. This dictum should also include our enemies that are suffering just like us.

Armstrong’s work was formulated like the Twelve Steps Program for Alcohol Anonymous. Her vision of compassion grew out of her 2008 TED talk on compassion for which she won a $100,000 prize. This achievement led her to focus her thinking as a religious historian and interfaith advocate on the promulgation of the Golden Rule, and compassionate living in the world.

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Cherished Lives

Christians enjoy living their lives.  They are sure that their walk is blessed, and guided by an Ever-loving Creator.  They meet in fellowship with other believers, and find joy in the Christian teachings.  Joy embraces them because of the Holy Spirit, and they serve others in need.  Robert Pirsig (b. 1928), a writer wrote, “When people are fanatically dedicated to political or religious faiths or any kind of dogmas or goals, it’s always because these dogmas or goals are in doubt.”  Christian believers aren’t fanatics.  Their ideas are based on biblical teachings of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  They aren’t members of cults, embracing their vocation through whim, or by persuasion of charismatic personalities.  Many are sober, humble, and meek at heart.

Authentic Christians have contrite hearts.  Their love reaches out touching everyone and knows no bounds.  They are balanced and fair-minded.  And these gifts come to light by doing volunteer work.  Their support is solid, so when the storms come they could withstand the onslaught.  By caring for others they are models in the community.  Through them great streams of happiness flow.  True Christians are like good seeds planted in fertile soil.  St. Matthew 13:22 stated,  “As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the lure of wealth choke the word, and it yields nothing.”  But God’s believers are fruitful.  They grow and bear abundantly, for they are pruned by the heavenly gardener to ensure a good harvest.

Christians of Light

Like Christ, Christians are blessed with merciful hearts, and are modeled in his image.  They have a good understanding of the scriptures and are slow to anger.  As brides of Christ’s church they find comfort in fellowship with the flock.  Their ministries are filled with joy, so even when they suffer setbacks their faith grows stronger.  William Shakespeare (1564–1616), renowned English poet, playwright expressed this best through Iago to Roderigo in Othello when he wrote:

How poor are they that ha’ not patience!

What wound did ever heal but by degrees?

Christians should always be patient.  It’s the prize of the race that counts.  Sometimes the going is slow and difficult, but they should persevere.  Never must they succumb to doubts, for through God’s grace they will triumph.

Margaret Mitchell (1900–1949), a journalist with the Atlanta Constitution had Scarlett O’Hara in Gone with the Wind (1936) say, “I’m going to live through this, and when it’s over, I’m never going to be hungry again.  No, nor any of my folks.  If I have to steal or kill – as God is my witness, I’m never going to be hungry again.”  Unlike Mitchell’s depiction a Christian approach should be spiritually guided.  Christians adopt to situations but their message is the same:  “Give your life to Christ, for he died for you on the cross at Calvary.  He resurrected, ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of God, the Father.”  But their testimonies are new every day.  They are forever blessed with knowing the truth about eternal life.

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