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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Children of God

“Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them; for it is such as these that the kingdom of God belongs.  Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.” Luke 18: 16-17.  By heeding Jesus Christ’s admonition, we can clearly see that children are featured prominently in God’s plan of redemption.  The key for raising children should be on having them have a spiritual upbringing.  Their parents teach them rules at home that are good and necessary in the community.  Kids are taught in simple ways that are easily understood.  Most children of average intelligence have no problems knowing the dos and don’ts that are taught.  An Italian author Pieto Aretino (1492–1556), who wielded much influence on contemporary arts and politics wrote, “I love you, and because I love you, I would sooner have you hate me for telling you the truth than adore me for telling you lies.”  This saying not only goes for the parents love, but for the relationships with their children.

As our children grow older more goals are set.  In kindergarten, elementary, middle, and high school, they are learning about growing up, important steps for cultivating well-rounded personalities.  Parents and teachers enhance their development not only through reading, writing, and arithmetic, but by attending church.  Teachers spend time to explain the merits and demerits of these activities.  They explain why physical exercise is necessary, and how it helps pupils’ emotional health.  In such programs children develop skills for playing, working, and understanding why participation is essential for building community spirit.

Babe Ruth (1895–1948), a baseball player said, “The way a team plays as a whole determines its success.  You may have the greatest bunch of individual stars in the world, but if they don’t play together the club won’t be worth a dime.”  Ruth like parents realized that although individual performance is desirable, it’s for the kids to understand that success lies with the team.

 Nutrition & Tests

While growing up as children they are often told, “Drink your milk.  It’s perfect food with proteins and vitamins.”  They hear, “To be strong, you’ve to eat your vegetables.”  In other advice it’s said, “Don’t eat so much candy.  It isn’t good for you.  Watch fruit juices, soda, and be careful about additives.”  Children are warned these ingredients could harm them.  Parents tell them, “You have to get enough sleep and exercise.” These are essential attributes beneficial for their growth and development.  But throughout the children’s lives there will be tests.  Testing at school makes kids anxious concerning if they will pass or fail a class.  In team sports they wonder if they will be good enough players.  And in visiting their doctor parents are concerned if they are healthy.

 Yet, parents and teachers will be amiss if they raise children not knowing about God.  There are many Christian denominations from which a family might choose a faith tradition.  As they attend church with their children they are teaching them some essential lessons about life.  Thomas Paine (1737–1809), an English-American political activist and revolutionary said, “Those who want to recap the benefits of this great nation must bear the fatigue of supporting it.”  In living in a Christian nation citizens must carry our weight as they live.  They ought to work in the interest of all people including the poor, sick, and destitute.

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Selfishness

Then he said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.”

—Lk. 12:15

Whoever oppresses the poor shows contempt for their Maker, but whoever is kind to the needy honors God.

—Prov. 14:31

Not being selfish is necessary for forgiveness.  People have to be humble, loving, and kind to each other.  Napolean Hill (1883–1970), a self-help author said, “Great achievement is usually born of great sacrifice, and is never the result of selfishness.”  Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929–1968), a Baptist minister and civil rights activist wrote, “Every man must decide whether he will walk in the light of creative altruism or in the darkness of destructive selfishness.”

But Kristin Armstrong (b. 1973), a professional road bicycle racer said, “I write about the power of trying, because I want to be okay with failing.  I write about generosity because I battle selfishness.  I write about joy because I know sorrow.  I write about faith because I have almost lost mine, and I know what it is to be broken and in need of redemption.  I write about gratitude because I am thankful – for all of it.”  Often people learn from others about how to make headway in life.  This is so because there are so many impediments that they have to contend with.  A Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu (6th-5th BC–531 BC) wrote, “Manifest plainness, embrace simplicity, reduce selfishness, have few desires.”

Alveda King (b. 1951), an activist and former state representative from Georgia wrote, “Abortion and racism are both symptoms of a fundamental human error.  The error is thinking that when someone stands in the way of our wants, we can justify getting that person out of our lives.  Abortion and racism stem from the same poisonous root, selfishness.”  And Pope Francis (b. 1936), head of the Catholic Church said, “We have observed that, in society and the world in which we live, selfishness has increased more than love for others, and that men of good will must work, each with his own strengths and expertise, to ensure that love for others increases until it is equal and possibly exceeds love for oneself.”

People could therefore conclude that forgiveness begins with understanding.  This has to be one of the more important goals of our lives.  As Saint Catherine of Siena (1347–1380), a Dominican Scholastic philosopher and theologian wrote, “The poison of selfishness destroys the world.”

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God in Nature

What causes lightning to strike?

What brings thunderstorms?

Lightning flashes when positively

And negatively charged particles interact

Grow large enough to form a giant spark

But thunderstorms form from an unstable air mass

When warm and usually cold air collide

 

Yet some sacred texts show this is how God speaks

God might explodes, brings judgment, and condemn

But how did the ancients believe these were acts of God?

Scientists, prophets, theologians tend to agree

That there must be “cause and effect”

So they determine God possesses this power

Because the Eternal Spirit exists in nature

 

Other phenomena are just as revealing –

Tsunamis are sudden movement of the ocean because of earthquakes,

Volcanoes are formed from the buoyancy of the magma,

And pressure from absolved gases,

Hurricanes are due to intense low pressure areas

That forms in the summer or fall over warm waters

“God, help us to be cognizant of nature’s phenomena.  Why these manifestations often cause devastations are based on mysteries of your omniscience.  Protect us from the storms of life.”

Amen

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True Liberty

It is freedom that Christ has set us free.  Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.

—Gal. 5:1

But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life.

—Rom. 6:22

An English philosopher and physician John Locke (1632–1704) said, “All mankind… being all equal and independent, no one ought to harm another in his life, health, liberty or possessions.”  Locke’s views were echoed by Thomas Jefferson (1743–1826), a founding father and president of the United States who wrote, “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”  This is the essence of freedom.

Susan B. Anthony (1820–1906), a social reformer and women’s rights activist said, “It was we, the people; not we, the white male citizens; nor yet we, the male citizens; but we, the whole people, who formed the Union.  And we formed it, not to give the blessings of liberty, but to secure them; not to the half of ourselves and the half of our posterity, but to the whole people – women as well as men.”  Anthony’s beliefs were supported by W. E. B. Du Bois (1868–1963), a sociologist and civil rights activist who wrote, “I believe in Liberty for all men: the space to stretch their arms and their souls, the right to breathe and the right to vote, the freedom to choose their friends, enjoy the sunshine, and ride on the railroads, uncursed by color; thinking, dreaming, working as they will in a kingdom of beauty and love.”  Anthony’s concern was with having equal rights of women, while Du Bois’ focus was on African Americans.

Freedom & Equality

B. R. Ambedkar (1891–1956), an Indian jurist and politician said, “My social philosophy may be said to be enshrined in three words: liberty, equality and fraternity. Let no one, however, say that I have borrowed my philosophy from the French Revolution. I have not.  My philosophy has roots in religion and not in political science.  I have derived them from the teachings of my Master, the Buddha.”  Benjamin Franklin (1706–1790), a founding father of the United States elaborated on this dimension of freedom when he wrote, “Without freedom of thought, there can be no such thing as wisdom – and no such thing as public liberty without freedom of speech.”  But John F. Kennedy (1917–1963), president of the United States uttered a warning about the survival of freedom when he said, “Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and the success of liberty.”   That was the will of Kennedy for Americans.

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God of Possibilities

Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

—Mt. 19:26

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

—Jn. 3:16

“And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.”

—Mt. 16:18

Gloria Steinem (b. 1934), a social political activist said, “Without leaps of imagination, or dreaming, we lose the excitement of possibilities.  Dreaming, after all, is a form of planning.”  People have to see themselves as reaching out for something better in order to obtain God’s promises.  One way of doing so is through divine inspiration.  Bernie Siegel (b. 1932), a retired pediatric surgeon wrote, “Inspiration is the greatest gift because it opens your life to many new possibilities.  Each day becomes more meaningful, and your life is enhanced when your actions are guided by what inspires you.”

It’s therefore for us to build on our notion of knowing and loving God.  This calls for the ability of Christians to pursue these goals by studying the Scriptures, the word of God.  Jean Piaget (1896–1980), a Swiss psychologist said, “The goal of education is not to increase the amount of knowledge but to create the possibilities for a child to invent and discover, to create men who are capable of doing great things.”  But this approach calls for determined effort.  Ralph Marston (1907–1967), a professional football player wrote, “You’ve done it before and you can do it now.  See the positive possibilities.  Redirect the substantial energy of your frustration and turn it into positive, effective, unstoppable determination.”

Create Possibilities

Mario Testino (b. 1954), a Peruvian photographer said, “My favourite words are possibilities, opportunities and curiosity.  I think if you are curious, you create opportunities, and then if you open the doors, you create possibilities.”  That’s why perseverance is essential for walking in the footsteps of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. People have to do so by preparing themselves.  Zig Ziglar (1926–2012), an author and motivational speaker said, “The person who dumps garbage into your mind will do you considerable harm that the person who dumps garbage on the floor, because each load of mind garbage negatively impacts your possibilities and lower your expectations.”  It’s therefore up to us to prepare ourselves properly for the possibilities of God.  Things could go in a million directions, so it’s wise to think about the good possibilities.  Turn to God, relieve your stress, and rest assure he’ll guide you in the best way of knowing, and walking with him.

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God’s Mercy

“But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’  For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

—Mt. 9:13

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.

—1 Jn. 1:9

Saint Teresa of Avila (1515–1582), a Roman Catholic Carmelite nun and Spanish mystic wrote, “I had many friends to help me to fall; but as to rising again, I was so much left to myself, that I wonder now I was not always on the ground.  I praise God for His mercy; for it was He only Who stretched out His hand to me.  May He be blessed forever! Amen.”  And Winston Churchill (1874–1965), prime minister of the United Kingdom said, “All the great things are simple, and many can be expressed in a single word: freedom, justice, honor, duty, mercy, hope.”  Luke 6:36 reminded us to be merciful, even as your heavenly Father is merciful.

A president of the United States, Abraham Lincoln (1809–1865) wrote, “I have always found that mercy bears richer fruits than strict justice.”  Joyce Myer (b. 1943), a Christian author and speaker said, “God’s mercy is fresh and new every morning.”  While Pope Francis (b. 1936), of the Catholic Church wrote, “A little bit of mercy makes the world less cold and more just.”  People could therefore say like 1 Peter 1:3, blessed the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has surely caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ who rose from the dead.

Thanks-living

Charles Spurgeon (1834–1892), an English Baptist preacher said, “I think that is a better thing than thanksgiving: thanks-living.  How is this to be done?  By a general cheerfulness of manner, by an obedience to the command of Him by whose mercy we live, by a perpetual, constant delighting of ourselves in the Lord, and by a submission of our desires to His will.”  Still as people live in this world they should be aware of the role nature plays.  Neil deGrasse Tyson (b. 1958), an astrophysicist and author wrote, “Even with all our technology and the inventions that make modern life so much easier than it once was, it takes just one big disaster to wipe all that away and remind us that, here on Earth, we’re still at the mercy of nature.”  These circumstances in the world are unpredictable, so people have to put their faith in a loving God, who provides for us and keep us safe.

But how could people be recipients of God’s grace and mercy?  Why do we often turn to the things of this world to solve our problems?  Often we’re misguided when we find they aren’t the answer.  Christians though ought to submit their lives to Christ.  This act brings grace, mercy, peace, and love – the foundation of true fulfillment.

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The Supreme Light

Light is a pure reality.

It has no distractions,

And is the ultimate in fulfillment

It symbolizes the Eternal Essence of the Universe,

And refers to the Oneness of God, Allah, Brahma, and Dao

 

The teachings of faiths show

Believers ascending towards this Supreme Light

The sacred texts, saints, gurus, priests, rabbis, and imams

Teach about love to embrace this reality.

These themes are prominent in the Holy Scriptures, Hebrew Bible,

Talmud, Old and New Testaments, Koran,

Vedas, Upanishads, and other canonical books

 

But these scriptures all refer to the Supreme Light

In uniquely different ways

The monotheistic religions – Judaism, Christianity, and Islamic beliefs

Teach how believers could achieve eternal life in Heaven.

Eastern faith traditions explain the role of karma –

What believers sow they will reap in the afterlife

Their reality comes in the form of various stages of rebirth

In achieving the Oneness of Hinduism’s Brahma,

Or nirvana in Buddhism

 

“Ultimate Reality, help us to be guided by this all-encompassing light.  Let your light enlighten our hearts and minds.”

Amen

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Hopeful Lives

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

—Jer. 29:11

“Death has been swallowed up in victory.”  “Where O death is your victory?  Where O death is your sting?”  The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.  But thanks be to God!  He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

—1 Cor. 15: 54-57

Bradley Whitford (b. 1959), an actor and political activist wrote, “Infuse your life with action.  Don’t wait for it to happen.  Make it happen.  Make your own future.  Make your own hope.  Make your own love.  And whatever your beliefs, honor your creator, not by passively waiting for grace to come down from upon high, but by doing what you can to make grace happen…yourself, right now, right down here on Earth.”  Helen Keller (1880–1968), an author and political activist expressed this hope differently than Withford when she said, “Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement.  Nothing can be done without hope and confidence.”

Positive & Happy

Tena Desae (b. 1987), an Indian actress and model said, “Stay positive and happy.  Work hard and don’t give up hope.  Be open to criticism and keep learning.  Surround yourself with happy, warm and genuine people.”  However Robert Fulghum (b. 1937), a Utilitarian Universalist was positive about his views when he wrote, “I believe that imagination is stronger than knowledge.  That myth is more potent than history.  That dreams are more powerful than facts.  That hope always triumphs over experience.  That laughter is the only cure for grief.  And I believe that love is stronger than death.”

Michael Morpurgo (b. 1943), an English author was rather upbeat about his life.  He said, “Wherever my story takes me, however dark and difficult the theme, there is always some hope and redemption, not because readers like happy endings, but because I am an optimist at heart.  I know the sun will rise in the morning, and there is light at the end of every tunnel.” Robert Kennedy (1925–1968), a politician and lawyer wrote, “Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, those ripples build a current that can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.”  Marie Curie (1867–1934), a Polish and naturalized-French physicist and chemist echoed Kennedy’s feelings when she said, “You cannot build a better world without improving the individuals.  To that end, each of us must work for his own improvement and, at the same time, share a general responsibility for all humanity, our particular duty being to aid those to whom we think we can be most useful.”  The lesson is that people ought to pull together for the good of others.

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