Let there be light

The only reason for time is so that everything doesn’t happen at once.
-Albert Einstein

Forest Floor In Autumn With Ray Of Light

Time is such an interesting thing. Rabbi Daniel Lapin suggests that when God spoke let there be light He was in fact embedding energy in the earth for us to find and make use of, that we may have more time. Recall the sun and the moon and the stars had not yet been created when God created light. Interesting.

Last summer Jamie and I had the privilege of staying in a beautiful old bed and breakfast that was built in the 1850’s with some of our closest friends. This old home belonged to a prominent family of their day and we were lucky enough to spend some time reading a set of the family’s memoirs. Throughout the trip a friend of ours consistently drew us back in time, asking questions like what do you suppose the coolest part of living in the 1850’s would have been? We often found ourselves thinking about just how different it would have been.

The memoirs touched on some business that the father of the house had engaged in. Like most business it dealt with deep partnerships. I can not recall exactly what took place but the gist of the matter was that one of the men was traveling to take a meeting for with the other. The meeting was set by post and many things were assumed that we would not be assumed today. For example, the meeting was set on a week not on the hour or minute. That is, “I plan, should you find it agreeable and God willing, to arrive the week of the 7th.” It was assumed the traveler would be put up, that the receiver would be flexible and set, for the most part, a week aside. Also, I am assuming here, it would not be irregular that when the traveler arrived the gentleman of the house may not be there waiting to receive him. The traveler may have to wait. Imagine that.

This manner seems slow and inefficient at a superficial glance. This manner of taking a meeting and furthermore perhaps just to talk through a the details of a deal, that of which might get done via text today, would seem too slow to many of today’s CEOs. And yet these men had still managed to conduct commerce and provide commodities for our country on large scale. Interesting.

Consider for a moment how deep and meaningful a partnership a stage like this in the 1850’s would set. Contrasted with today’s ‘busy’ business owners, where often every minute is accounted for at least once. Constantly rushing around, putting out the next fire, never seeming to have enough time. Yet we have been blessed with so much energy enhancements, we have been given so much time back since the 1850’s. What a contrast.

In the old world there were two large and contrasting cultures. Jerusalem and Athens. When we think of what Greece gave the world we often think of sculptures and philosophy. Both unaffected by time. Interesting. A sculpture unchanging. A debate neverending. Another from Greece the gymnasium and preservation and worship of youth. Contrasted with Jerusalem where elders were held in high esteem. Jewish culture holds fast to time passing. They consider this understanding a blessing not something to work against. On the first day of hanukkah one candle is lit. The next day two are lit. Things are changing.

Things, relationships, are changing. Strengthening and weakening. We can not attend to a relationship once and for all and expect it to stay well. Leave it be and come back in two years and it will not be where you left it. Things are changing, getting better, getting worse.

There was a brilliant commercial I saw once that played on this fact. It was a teeth whitening commercial that said “if you’re not whitening, you’re yellowing”. They were right. Things change as time passes. I have come to believe that God gave us energy to multiply our time. The question then becomes, with all this wonderful energy at our disposal, what things are we investing our time in?

-A takeaway from Festival of Lights by Rabbi Daniel Lapin

As always good books, takeaways, stories, and/or lessons learned on the subject are most appreciated.

 

Theological Virtues: Faith

“[Faith] is the art of holding on to things your reason has once accepted, in spite of your changing moods.”
-C.S. Lewis

Faith

I have for some time now felt a sense of faith being: doing what you say you will do. That is, a man is faithful if he does what he says he will. He is faithful to his word. All along, at the same time, I felt there was much more to it. After a study on this virtue I think there is.

Still I think my former understanding holds true. A man who says he will so and so and does not, I’ve found is often a case of circumstances. “You see I would not have said I would have such and such if I knew that business about the thing was just round the corner.” Some are more tolerant of circumstances than others, more determined, and so we say they are more faithful or reliant than others.

I heard Zig Ziglar tell a story that paints the picture well I think in Born to Win. The story goes like this. There was a young sailor on a ship out at sea and some weather set on rather quickly. He was directed to hurry up the mast and see to something. Taking something in perhaps before the wind blew harder for too long and damaged something I suppose. The sea had begun to toss and turn as the young sailor made his way up the mast. Looking on an old sailor noticed this young man start to sway and lose his balance. His head looking side to side and his gaze being displaced with each crash of a wave. Just before the young sailor fell, the old sailor shouted, “Look up!”. And upon looking up and setting his sights on his destination the young sailor instantly regained his balance and quite possibly saved his life.

I believe each of us need to steady our gaze as the waves of life crash in to our world. I believe this steadies us. Sets us up. Stations us as something others can lean on and depend on. Produces in us something that we ourselves need to survive the circumstances.

As Christians I believe we are called to hold to our beliefs no matter the circumstances. Not in a stubborn way, but in a consistent way. A dependable way. You see, I think the reason most tend not to prefer the man who says one thing and does another is because we can not depend on him. He fails us. And I believe that this very lack of predictability, this lack of faithfulness, is what makes it difficult for them to relate to others. How do you relate to someone whose beliefs change with the wind? How do you relate to someone who is not sound in who they are? I have come to believe you are forced to take them as they are that day and make the best of it. The issue here being that the relation is very shallow. And I do not mean, diabolical or self seeking, I mean not very meaningful. The soil is shallow, there is just not much there to work with, to relate to. After all think about it, how do you relate to someone you do not know?

Christians can not be this way. Our faith in what we believe can not change with the waves of life. Though we do not know every detail of the future we should at least know that our brothers and sisters in Christ will hold fast to their beliefs. That we also, can be depended upon to have the same view of life tomorrow as today. Not that we will always do the right thing we know right, that is another matter altogether, but that our beliefs remain. This is faith. This is what is at the foundation of deep and meaningful relation to another. Not knowing what tomorrow will bring for another but knowing how they will think about it and look at it and approach it. This can be related to. Search your deepest most meaningful relationships and you will find this. You will find faith in the other.

But faith in what? For a Christian? Christ, of course. Knowing that what He said He would do, He will. Knowing that the words of the Bible are true. Knowing that those that have not come to pass yet will. Knowing that God is who He says He is and always will be. I have come to believe that this is the cornerstone of the eternal relationship with God that we all seek.

Wrapping up this study on the Christian virtues; Faith: an unfailing knowing. Hope: a desire to fulfill. Charity: an unconditional love. This verse cries out to me like never before.

“What a person desires is unfailing love”
Proverbs 19:22a

-A takeaway from Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis

-A takeaway from Born to Win by Zig Ziglar

As always good books, takeaways, stories, and/or lessons learned on the subject are most appreciated.

Cardinal Virtues: Fortitude

Fortitude includes both kinds of courage – the kind that faces danger as well as the kind that ‘sticks it’ under pain.

-C.S. Lewis

Marine Corps War Memorial

Fortitude from the latin fortis meaning strong. Fortitude in the english defined as courage in pain or adversity. C.S. Lewis believes that “courage is not simply one of the virtues but the form of every virtue at the testing point, which means at the point of highest reality.” He points out a lesson from history noting that Pontius Pilate was just until it became too risky. What good is temperance or prudence or justice if it breaks the moment it matters?

C.S. Lewis wrote of courage during World War II. Many illuminating writings on the matter come from war. From times when men are called to kill and die. And face the end of their existence in this world. In the new World War II movie, Fury, it is no wonder that when the protagonists have a chance to escape certain death but chose to stay and fight that they draw their courage from quoting aloud the truth in 1 John 2:15-17:

If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.

The director of the movie is quoted saying of this last chapter in the film, “It’s fascinating that, because of his faith, he’s not unafraid of dying, but he’s able to accept it and doesn’t see it as the end of the road.”

So much of what matters in life and of the virtues comes around when there is something to lose. The most so: things of self. The most of this: life. Our life. Even the life of those we love. What of the life of our only son? If we can get past this the smaller things that are so large and do so much damage; our pride, our reputation, our prospects, our preferences become much easier to let go of. This may sound jarring, but it is just life. It is just a life. Let go. Give it to God. Trust all of self with God. Let go this world and hold fast to the next. May we all fall out of love with this world and break the bonds of slavery to it. Freeing ourselves to live in peace and do the will of God.

-A takeaway from Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis

-A takeaway from The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis

As always good books, takeaways, stories, and/or lessons learned on the subject are most appreciated.

The Ten Commandments for Relating to Others

Teach me, O Lord, the way of thy statutes; and I shall keep it unto the end. Give me understanding, and I shall keep thy law; yea, I shall observe it with my whole heart. Make me to go in the path of thy commandments; for therein do I delight.

-Psalm 119:33-35

Sunrise at Mount Sinai in Egypt

When God gave Moses the ten commandments why did He give them by way of two tablets instead one? Rabbi Daniel Lapin suggests the ten commandments were given on two tablets instead one because the two tablets relate to one other.  He suggests the ten commandments are actually five principles, each principle with two applications to make ten. The first tablet, commandments one through five relate to our creator, which includes our parents. The second tablet, commandments six through ten speak to how we are to relate to our peers.  For example, commandments one and six speak to the first principle, where commandment one applies the first principle to our creator and commandment six applies to our peers.  Interesting.

 

The first principle, Rabbi Daniel Lapin suggests is:  Others have the right to exist.

First Tablet: Second Tablet:
1. I am the Lord your God 6. Thou shalt not murder

I am not the center of the universe.  There are others who exist.  Their right to exist is real as mine.  I am the LORD your God, is where their right to exist comes from.  Rabbi Daniel Lapin teaches that the source of power of the second tablets strength lies in the truth of the first tablet.

 

The second principle: Certain relationships are sacred.

First Tablet: Second Tablet:
2. Thou shalt have no other gods before me. 7. Thou shalt not commit adultery.

Throughout the old testament, when God’s chosen people worshiped false idols it was referred to, by Him, as prostitution.  God wants us to have special relationships that are different from others and we are to uphold these relationships.  It is not good for man to be alone.

 

The third principle: Others, not you, have a right to their possessions.

First Tablet: Second Tablet:
3. Thou shalt not take my name in vain 8. Thou shalt not steal

Property is a good thing.  People own things that are theirs and you can not take them. God’s name is his just as your neighbors news paper is theirs.

 

The fourth principle: Others property includes their reputation.

First Tablet: Second Tablet:
4. Remember the Sabbath, to keep it holy 9. Thou shalt not bear false witness

Just as we are called to uphold our peers reputation by not lying about them we are called to uphold God’s reputation as the Creator by keeping the Sabbath day holy.  It does not say ‘remember the Sabbath and keep it holy.’ It says ‘to keep it holy.’ The act of keeping the Sabbath is how we uphold God’s reputation. This is what keeps the Sabbath holy. This is a signal to the world that we belong to God and that God is the Creator.  God created the world in six days and rested on the seventh.

 

The fifth principle: Our rights have limits

First Tablet: Second Tablet:
5. Honor your father and mother 10.  Thou shalt not covet

Covet is like envy.  I do not want you to have it.  I do not want you to be better than me.  I do not want you to be above me.  Coveting is stepping out of our boundaries with our peers and not honoring our parents is stepping out of our boundaries with those placed above us by God.  Others will be above us in our life and we need to respect that, more we need to see its beauty, and flourish in their protection and love for us.

 

In summary, Rabbi Daniel Lapin teaches that the ten commandments are actually five principles with two examples each. One for how we relate to those above us and one for how we relate to those beside us:

  1. I am not the center of the universe, others exist and have a right to,
  2. among those others there is one other that has a unique and special relationship with me,
  3. all other people have a right to their property, and I am not to violate it,
  4. these other people also have reputations which are a most important form of their property not to be overlooked, and
  5. we are to accept and have joy in the place God has us.

 

 

-A takeaway from The Ten Commandments by Rabbi Daniel Lapin

As always good books, takeaways, stories, and/or lessons learned on the subject are most appreciated.

Forgiveness and Trust: Simplicity

To lick your wounds, to smack your lips over grievances long past, to roll over your tongue the prospect of bitter confrontations still to come, to savor to the last toothsome morsel both the pain you are given and the pain you are giving back – in many ways it is a feast fit for a king. The chief drawback is that what you are wolfing down is yourself. The skeleton at the feast is you.

-Frederick Buechner

 forgiveness and trust: simplicity

 

Forgiveness: to let go: to let leave: to move on. Enough. Unresolved issues take up space. In his book, Crucial Conversations, Joseph Grenny argues that if you do not talk it out you will act it out. Passive aggressiveness. Acting it out, I believe, breaks down trust. A most useful characteristic. Trust speeds up. It bears time. Freeing us from needless worry about the distant future and distant past that we may focus on now and on eternity.

Acting it out creates more negative. Negative that slows and takes up more and more. That becomes harder and harder to forgive. That eventually break relationships. I believe margin works the other way round. If you have it, the hour conversation to talk it out now can be had. Which leads to more margin. Margin begets margin.

I have come to believe that if we lack margin now we can insert forgiveness and trust to set things on the right course.

 

-A takeaway from Simplify by Bill Hybels

-A takeaway from Crucial Conversations by Joseph Grenny

-A takeaway from Mansfield’s book of Manly Men by Stephen Mansfield

As always good books, takeaways, stories, and/or lessons learned on the subject are most appreciated.

How to Judge Others

That is why Christians are told not to judge others. We see only the results which a man’s choices make out of his raw material. But God does not judge him on the raw material at all, but on what he has done with it.

-CS Lewis

Judging others


For the longest I thought myself a body with a spirit. Then I realized it was the other way round. A spirit with a body am I. One will let go the other and continue on. Our bodies and brains and bents make up our raw material, as it were. Circumstances influencing all along. Our spirit the the driving force determines what our bodies do. We view others and see results of the the body, which of course result of the spirits choosing, still we do not see spirits. More, we can not presume to see all the raw materials. Who could surmise to know all the words spoken to a body: the thoughts thought about it and by it: the rearing: the mental makeup. Suppose all one body knows is hate. And the spirit fights for good and wins and results in going out of its way to open a door for another.  Now suppose another body knows all the better love and is lazy of spirit and losses.  And the loss instead of a complement to lift a day and encourage another results in the same door being opened.  A lazy spirit displeases our God and a spirit fighting for good pleases, still we know not the difference from our vantage. A door opened is a door opened. What then of us as judges? I imagine, we are not fit at all. I image further the only logical answer is to let judging to those fit to judge. The Three Persons with perfect knowing.

 

-A takeaway from Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis

As always good books, takeaways, stories, and/or lessons learned on the subject are most appreciated.

Building Goodness: Simplicity

“Pleasant words are as a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and health to the bones.”

-King Solomon

Farmer Hand Touching Wheat Ears

Words build up.  Words tear down.  We create simplicity with our words.  We create drama with our words.  The things we say matter.  Each day, each interaction we have a choice to bless people with simplicity or burden them with unnecessary drag.  Our attitude is most critical to building a culture of simplicity in our community and organizations. Are you a culture builder or a culture buster?

What if at the end of a work day when you left to head home you could say “Today I persevered for my fellow, I blessed everyone with my words.  Today I built up the culture I belong to. Never tearing it down with even the slightest unnecessary burden or negativity.  I never criticized, condemned or complained”  How satisfying that day would be. How fulfilled we would feel.

 

-A takeaway from Simplify by Bill Hybels

As always good books, takeaways, stories, and/or lessons learned on the subject are most appreciated.