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“What you need most in order to be happy is peace.” – Thich Nhat Hanh

The Situation

What every person needs most in their lives is peace. Sometimes life can get so busy it is easy to overlook what you need most. The peace you need is simple, infinitely simple, yet easily misplaced and forgotten. There is so much to do, it is easy to put off pursuing personal peace. This is a mistake. Do not neglect taking care of yourself until the children are grown, until retirement, or until old age, sickness, and death arrive. By then it is too late and may not be possible. In fact, the people you love need you to be your best self, today, not someday. They need you healthy and intact, not distracted and alienated. They need you present and accounted for, not disconnected and depressed. This will require some changes. This will require some time just for you.

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“All of modern life is geared for a flight from God into the wilderness of neurosis.” – Thomas Merton

The Solution

You must take time to stop non-stop activities, entertainments, and obligations. Just for a time. There must be a time and a place each day for you to stop, unwind, unplug, and rest in the silence. Your time. If you schedule activity, you can schedule rest. If you immerse yourself in noise and images, you can immerse yourself in silence and better surroundings. This is essential if you want to have peace.

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Now is the time. Today is the day to begin. Schedule a daily period of solitude, silence, rest, and being present in the moment. Make others aware that you will be doing this every day from now on and they must respect it. No excuses. If you do this daily, distortions will begin to fall away and you will begin to see things clearly, perhaps for the first time in your life.  You will find peace.

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The Agreement

You are not obligated to live a life controlled by noise, illusions, and alienation from yourself, others, and God. There is a balance. Seek it. Claim it. Protect it. This will benefit everyone. You must consistently take time for yourself, or there will be no one left to care for anyone else. You cannot give to others what you do not have.

“The obstacle to wisdom is ignorance, and the cause that promotes and increases ignorance is constant indulgence in pointless activities.” – the Dalai Lama

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Breaking the Law

A leper came to him begging him, and kneeling he said to him, ‘If you choose, you can make me clean.’ Moved with pity, Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, and said to him, ‘I do choose. Be made clean!’ Immediately the leprosy left him, and he was made clean. (Mark 1:40-42)

(Leprosy in the Bible covered a range of skin diseases. More importantly, it was considered as making a person unclean. The law required that a leper stay away from others – a social and religious exclusion.)

Sometimes the law of love requires breaking the law of the land. The person with leprosy broke the social and religious laws when he approached Jesus. Jesus also broke the social and religious laws when he touched and healed the person with leprosy. The law of the land often excluded some groups of people from social and religious life in the community. Jesus, who embodied the law of love, healed people and welcomed them back. Ultimately, Jesus was tortured and executed for obeying God’s law of love and not human laws of exclusion.

This poses an important question as Lent approaches: Which law do I obey? Inclusive love, or exclusive and legalistic piety?

The Highest Value


“Then Jesus’ mother and brothers arrived. Standing outside, they sent someone in to call him. A crowd was sitting around him, and they told him, ‘Your mother and brothers are outside looking for you.’ ‘Who are my mother and my brothers?’ he asked. Then he looked at those seated in a circle around him and said, ‘Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.’”  (Mark 3:31-35)

What divides people most? Ideas, feelings, and values. Can I rise above what divides me from others? This is difficult. I have failed too many times to count. Pride, anger, fear, and values (!) often cause me to fail at loving. When others hold values that oppose mine or seem to threaten them, a sad division occurs and love is cast aside. This tells me my highest values need a higher grounding. I have often been terribly wrong by being stubbornly right. This does not mean I should forsake all I know to be good, true, and beautiful. There is another way.

The will of God is that we should love one another, without becoming the same and agreeing on everything. Love is strong enough to be vulnerable and open to error and injury, yet it always remains love. Love does no harm. It endures all things. This love is the highest value.



New Wine, New Self

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No one pours new wine into old wineskins. (Mark 2:22)

Change is inevitable. It can help me or destroy me. If I welcome it or seek it, good things can come. If I fight it, life will be difficult.

If you bring forth what is within you, what is within you will save you. If you do not bring forth what is within you, what is within you will destroy you. (The Gnostic Gospel of Thomas)

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I am called always to repent and change. The promise of new life is in every loss. With the gift of life comes the responsibility of facing my weakness, my sins, and my addictions. In the light of God’s love, all things are made new.

Each day, I can and must begin again. The new wine of the Spirit fills the emptiness of my new self, while the old self fades away. This is the pattern.

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The Mindset of Exile

All things come from God, exist in God, and return to God. All things. Each according to its form and function is holy in its own way and belongs to God’s Creation; living and non-living. Living things of all types, however, have a kind of inscape and lifeforce that connects them deeply with the giver of life and with one another. God’s imprint and Spirit dwell in them. That includes us, the animals, and all growing things. How is it then that we so often look past this and explain it away in order to use other things (and each other) for only our own singular ends? Our wants and needs are not the only reason other living and non-living things exist. It may be one reason they exist, it also may not be, but God’s Creation is not merely a backdrop for the human drama. It is more complex and beautiful than that. If this wasn’t true, Christianity would not include an eschatology of the redemption of Creation in a new heaven and a new earth, or resurrection from the dead. The resurrected Christ would have been disembodied ectoplasm, but he wasn’t.

Our role in God’s Creation is greater than that of consumers and competitors, and the various living and non-living elements of Creation are more than commodities and objects. If we reduce other living and non-living things to only commodities, we reduce ourselves to the same, and God to a factory manager. This is the mindset of separation from God (sin), alienation from ourselves, and exile from the original goodness we were created to rejoice in and care for. This mindset causes a multitude of atrocities, such as slavery, environmental destruction, factory farming and the commodification of animals and the Earth, and other people. It causes many other horrible things as well. It is a rejection of the free gift of infinite goodness, of things as they are, by reducing them and ourselves to much less. If this isn’t a sin, I don’t know what is.

The way you think of one thing tends to reflect the way you think of all things. To see everything deeply and simply as it is, in God, is the beginning of freedom and the end of suffering. We are not obligated to do things as we have always done them. We can change. Forcefully appropriating the gifts of nature for purposes other than those freely given is the source of self-imposed exile from the original intention of God’s Creation. Some call it the original sin.

“Either you look at the universe as a very poor creation out of which no one can make anything or you look at your own life and your own part in the universe as infinitely rich, full of inexhaustible interest, opening out into infinite further possibilities for study and contemplation and interest and praise.” – Thomas Merton

Lectio Divina

Morning. I rise early. The house is still and quiet. I am awake. Truly awake. Like a grateful celebrant each morning at the first glow of dawn, I witness the rebirth of the cosmos. The birds sing the first song ever. This moment of solitude and communion is closer to the original goodness of Eden than any other I have known. In this place I return to each day, I have learned something. Recovery of the authentic self, God’s own true beloved, is not an otherworldly event; it is realized in awakening to the mystery of life here and now, right where I am. I only have to stop long enough to know it.

The First Temptation

After fasting forty days and forty nights, He was hungry. The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.” (Matthew 4:2-3)

The deepest hunger is not for bread. Bread is the means, not the end. Human beings live by love, the center of all things, above all else. The circumference of life can never be drawn until the center is set. This is spiritual geometry. “Stuff” alone will never satisfy, only the word of God’s love spoken in your heart, that says, “You are my own true beloved. In you I am delighted.” Then, all other things fall into their proper place and you are free.