Archives for category: Religion & Philosophy

I’ve been attending services at the Mt. Arahat Baptist Church in Pittsburgh, where Rev. Dr. William H. Curtis is pastor. I am drawn to the universal messages of service, humility, grace, compassion, and so forth. I find if you replace the words God or Jesus with destiny and/or karma, the message is the same as those advanced in Jainism.

One day, the service was on James 3:13. The passage reads as follows:

James 3:13
Who is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom.

The pastor asked the congregation, if you could ask God for just one gift right now, what would you ask for? He said he would ask for wisdom. (Or did he say James asked for wisdom? I can’t remember. Either way, instead of riches, good health, beauty or strength, what would be asked for would be wisdom).

The pastor then went on to describe the effects of wisdom. One of the characteristics of wisdom is how it alters your behavior for the long haul, and not just over the short run. One who is wise demonstrates wise and humble attributes that are typical of them as a person, not just a momentary display of humility. Another sign of wisdom is the ability to do favors for others – for people who cannot do favors for me – because I acknowledge that I am full of good favor that God has given to me.

Anyone who knows me knows I’m plagued by the comparison bug, always comparing myself to others — characteristics, accomplishments, and so on. So, the bit I liked best was when the pastor mentioned that if one has wisdom, then there is no bitter jealousy. One realizes that God has blessed others with certain attributes and gifts, and with wisdom, one cannot be jealous of the benefits God has given to someone else.

And that is a great lesson to start 2013 — Happy New Year!

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SWILLY:

Lately, I’ve been wondering if it’s good enough in life to “simply” be a good wife and a good mom, or whether more is demanded of those of us who are able. By more, I usually mean whether we have a duty to serve those who fall outside of the bounds of our direct and extended families. I usually end up on the side of, Yes. While we must  fulfill our duties to our children, our spouse, our parents, our siblings, our in-laws and so forth, we do in fact have a responsibility to extend ourselves to another. I’m especially convinced that having kids, and multiple kids at that, is no excuse for not serving another. Afterall, for most of us*, bringing life into the world, multiple times if that applies, was our own choice. While it may be time consuming, it is what we signed up for, and it doesn’t excuse us from extra-familiar service.

Today, I read this piece by Maureen Dowd’s called Why, God?, wherein her family friend priest, Father Chuck O’Malley, describes how God enters the world through us. During times of hardship and suffering, others can feel God’s presence by how we choose to help them through these tough times. The Father goes on to describe, “A contemporary theologian has described mercy as ‘entering into the chaos of another.’ … I have never found it easy to be with people who suffer, to enter into the chaos of others. Yet, every time I have done so, it has been a gift to me, better than the wrapped and ribboned packages. I am pulled out of myself to be love’s presence to someone else, even as they are love’s presence to me.”

As often happens with these articles, I often love the comments that folks leave behind. One in particular stood out, from Lee in Naples, FL. He (or she) wrote: “Expose yourself to the pain of another’s suffering and love them and be with them in love, and that is all we can do. That is where we find our divinity.”

I kind of really like that!

As Nipun often reminds us, we need not do big things, simply small things with big love. Lee’s comment reflected that side of service to me. Allowing yourself to be present for one’s suffering — entering one’s chaos — is a type of service. Surely, each of us has a little bit of time to extend our presence and comfort to a few souls, even if the file has to be sent, the house has to be vacuumed, dinner’s gotta be made, the in-laws have to be phoned, and the kids have soccer practice.

*Written based on the assumption that kids will enter our lives at some point, God/karma/destiny willing

SWILLY:
When evil deeds visit the earth, humans do their best to try and understand. The biggest question on people’s lips is, why?

Last week, 20 kids, first-graders mainly 6 and 7 years old, were gunned down in Newtown, CT. Six adults were also killed. The gunman was a 20-year-old man. In the wake of this devastating tragedy, many people invoked religion to explain and to cope. “Evil has visited this town.” “…indescribable violence, unconscionable evil…” “God has called them all home.” “May God bless and keep those we’ve lost in His heavenly place.” (These last 3 were part of President Obama’s speech December 15th speech in Newtown).

So we are returned to that eternal question that plagues all diety-driven religions: Why does God allow evil?