Saturday, December 03, 2011

Love Your Enemies

SOURCE: "A Victim Treats His Mugger Right" by Michael Garofalo. NPR: Morning Edition. March 28, 2008.
KEYWORDS:  beatitudes, love,

Julio Diaz has a daily routine. Every night, the 31-year-old social worker ends his hour-long subway commute to the Bronx one stop early, just so he can eat at his favorite diner.

But one night last month, as Diaz stepped off the No. 6 train and onto a nearly empty platform, his evening took an unexpected turn.

He was walking toward the stairs when a teenage boy approached and pulled out a knife.

"He wants my money, so I just gave him my wallet and told him, 'Here you go,'" Diaz says.

As the teen began to walk away, Diaz told him, "Hey, wait a minute. You forgot something. If you're going to be robbing people for the rest of the night, you might as well take my coat to keep you warm."

The would-be robber looked at his would-be victim, "like what's going on here?" Diaz says. "He asked me, 'Why are you doing this?'"

Diaz replied: "If you're willing to risk your freedom for a few dollars, then I guess you must really need the money. I mean, all I wanted to do was get dinner and if you really want to join me ... hey, you're more than welcome.

"You know, I just felt maybe he really needs help," Diaz says.

Diaz says he and the teen went into the diner and sat in a booth.

"The manager comes by, the dishwashers come by, the waiters come by to say hi," Diaz says. "The kid was like, 'You know everybody here. Do you own this place?'"

"No, I just eat here a lot," Diaz says he told the teen. "He says, 'But you're even nice to the dishwasher.'"
Diaz replied, "Well, haven't you been taught you should be nice to everybody?"

"Yea, but I didn't think people actually behaved that way," the teen said.

Diaz asked him what he wanted out of life. "He just had almost a sad face," Diaz says.

The teen couldn't answer Diaz — or he didn't want to.

When the bill arrived, Diaz told the teen, "Look, I guess you're going to have to pay for this bill 'cause you have my money and I can't pay for this. So if you give me my wallet back, I'll gladly treat you."
The teen "didn't even think about it" and returned the wallet, Diaz says. "I gave him $20 ... I figure maybe it'll help him. I don't know."

Diaz says he asked for something in return — the teen's knife — "and he gave it to me."

Afterward, when Diaz told his mother what happened, she said, "You're the type of kid that if someone asked you for the time, you gave them your watch."

"I figure, you know, if you treat people right, you can only hope that they treat you right. It's as simple as it gets in this complicated world."

Produced for Morning Edition by Michael Garofalo.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Do I Get Free Wi-Fi?

Source:  "Ask Bigger Questions" by Keith Anderson.

In June 2011, Steve Jobs made a twenty-minute presentation to the Cupertino City Council to introduce Apple’s plans for a new corporate headquarters, affectionately known as “the mothership.” This presentation caught my attention because it happened on the heels of Jobs’s big introduction of OSX Lion, iOS5, and iCloud at the annual Apple Worldwide Developers Conference. I laughed that even Steve Jobs had to deal with local politics, and I wondered how he would perform on someone else’s much smaller stage. So I watched.

He presented the new building to the City Council with his trademark charm. He talked about the architectural significance of the building, how it would create significantly more green space, the value of staying in his hometown of Cupertino and the accompanying economic benefits. Following his presentation, one of the city council members, inquiring about the benefit to the residents, asked Jobs — the Steve Jobs, the Edison of our time, the CEO of Apple, the second largest company in the world — “Do we get free Wi-Fi?”
Jobs responded by reiterating that Apple is the largest taxpayer in Cupertino, that it attracts bright and fairly affluent people (who also pay taxes), and that they are vastly increasing the green space. He concluded, “I think we bring a lot more than free Wi-Fi.” No kidding.

The memory of this presentation and exchange has remained with me, particularly since Jobs’s death, because of the valuable lesson I took from it. Most of the time our questions are too small.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Pull Yourself Toward God

Source:  "Religion Doesn't Make People Immoral, Being Human Does, " an interview with Rabbi David Wolpe on the Slate website.

"Leona Medina, a [17th-century] rabbi, once said very beautifully, if you were standing on the shore of a lake watching a guy pull his boat to the shore, and you were confused about mechanics and motion, you might think that he was pulling the shore to the boat. People make the same mistake when they pray. Whatever they want, they're going to move God to it. But real prayer is when you pull yourself towards God."

Sunday, November 06, 2011

You Cannot...

Source:  "American Charter" by Rev. William John Henry Boetcker; 1916 (often wrongly attributed to Abraham Lincoln).

* You cannot bring about prosperity by discouraging thrift.
* You cannot strengthen the weak by weakening the strong.
* You cannot help little men by tearing down big men.
* You cannot lift the wage earner by pulling down the wage payer.
* You cannot help the poor by destroying the rich.
* You cannot establish sound security on borrowed money.
* You cannot further the brotherhood of man by inciting class hatred.
* You cannot keep out of trouble by spending more than you earn.
* You cannot build character and courage by destroying men's initiative
and independence.
* You cannot help men permanently by doing for them what they can and
should do for themselves.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

We Are Not Alone

SOURCE: "We Are Not Alone," Su Voz; Tuesday, October 18, 2011
KEYWORDS: loneliness,
JOHN 16: 25-36*
“You will desert me; however, I am not alone, because the Father is with me.”

Loneliness is the most desolate word in the Spanish language. It has no regard for a person’s age, race, wealth, or level of intelligence.  Albert Einstein said, “How strange to be a world-renowned figure and yet to suffer from such loneliness.”

God created us to experience intimacy and companionship with others. He declared that it was not good for the man to be alone.  Solitude is the reason that many people end up feeling empty inside.

Jesus also felt lonely and must have felt it quite deeply when His disciples abandoned him.  Nevertheless, the presence of the Father was made clear when He said, “I am not alone, because the Father is with me.”  This closeness with the Lord can be had by all who place their trust in Him and in His Word.

We can forget our feelings of loneliness by opening ourselves up to others; but even more importantly, we must open ourselves up to the Lord. He is always with us and wants us to have communion with Him at all times.

PRAYER: Lord, grant that your company might erase all feelings of loneliness in my life. Amen.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Things I Knew


Jim Geraghty writes a blog over at National Review Online.  I'm not endorsing everything he has said, but I found his litany relaying the surprises of the past 15 years moving. 

Think back to about fourteen or fifteen years ago, and everything you thought you knew at that moment.

You knew no president would be so reckless that he would get caught having sex with an intern in the Oval Office.

You may have worried about your kid’s safety at school, but you knew two alienated teenagers couldn’t turn their rage into a massacre.

You “knew” that the winner of the presidential election was the candidate who got the most votes.

You knew absentee ballots get counted, whether or not the race was close or not. You knew a vote was a vote, and “dimpled chad” was the kid in your child’s kindergarten class photo.

When you looked out at the New York City skyline, you knew it would look the same the next day.

If you knew where Afghanistan was, you knew those loons beating women and blowing up Buddhas were bad news, but they were on the other side of the world and you had a lot more closer to home to worry about.

You knew the only thing being sent through the mail that could kill you came from the Unabomber. You knew that if deadly poison ever came through the mail, it wouldn’t be coming from a government scientist.

You knew a giant company like Enron with a big corporate headquarters and commercials couldn’t be a big scam. After all, serious professional economists like Paul Krugman worked for them as consultants.

You knew that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. You knew that when the United States sent its troops into harm’s way, it knew the mission and how it would accomplish it.

You knew that American soldiers didn’t humiliate their prisoners for fun, and didn’t take pictures of it.

You knew that you could trust priests.

You knew that you’d never see a breast during the Super Bowl halftime show.

You knew that television news anchors checked out their sources before reporting a huge story right before an election. You knew that if an anchor got it wrong, other news media would jump all over them, and the defining mission of figuring out the truth wouldn’t be left to a bunch of no-names working in their pajamas.

You knew hurricanes could get pretty rough, but you figured every big Gulf Coast city was ready for them.

You knew that governors didn’t sleep with hookers, at least not the ones who started their careers as prosecutors busting prostitution rings.

You knew the value of your house would almost always go up each year, some years a little, some years a lot.

You knew gas prices went up and went down, but that you would probably never pay more than three bucks a gallon.

You knew not to drink the water in Mexico, but that food here in America – tomatoes, jalapenos, peanut butter, ground beef – was always safe.

You knew the Cold War was over, the days of Russian troops marching across borders and occupying parts of other countries were long gone.

You knew the markets could bounce around, but that nobody talked about them collapsing and another Depression descending upon us. Your money was safe in institutions like Lehman Brothers and Bear Stearns, you spent your paycheck on gadgets at Circuit City and the Sharper Image, furniture from Bombay Company, books from Borders and toys from KB Toys, and the Big Three in Detroit would always keep making cars. The last thing you would ever see would be the big guys on Wall Street going to Washington and begging the federal government for cash.

You knew that recessions usually ended within a year; they didn’t drag on, with high unemployment, year after year after year…

You figured you could pick up your copy of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, the Rocky Mountain News, or the Christian Science Monitor every day until you died and never see those events in the headlines. It was about as likely as a federally-funded community group offering assistance to child prostitution rings.

The past fifteen years have been one rude awakening after another, where one unspoken assumption after another kept getting smacked around by a bipolar furious reality.
I also appreciate one of the comments listed there as well. 

Couldn't you make a list like that for any 15 year period?
Think 1930-1945 for starters....
15 years ago I knew that no nation could kill millions of people in gas chambers...

How to Manage Ideas

SOURCE: "Leadership Limerick: How to Manage Ideas" by Jeffrey Cufaude

"Great ideas are easily lost,
And bad ones often aren't tossed.
You need a system to rate,
and determine the right fate,
Or else you'll pay a great cost."

Friday, September 16, 2011

What It's Like to Be in Love

KEYWORDS:  love, Chesterton, discipleship,

On the subway, I was reading one of G. K. Chesterton’s Father Brown stories, “The Flying Stars,” and ran across one of those passages that make Chesterton worth the attention even of those who do not share his key theological or political views. The setting is an impromptu theatrical at a Boxing Day house party, and the boyfriend of the family’s daughter has taken charge of the entertainment:
He was supposed to be the clown, but he was really almost everything else, the author (so far as there was an author), the prompter, the scene-painter, the scene-shifter, and, above all, the orchestra. . . . Commonly he was a clever man, and he was inspired tonight with a wild omniscience, a folly wiser than the world, that which comes to a young man who has seen for an instant a particular expression on a particular face.
Honestly, this passage brought tears to my eyes, even though I had read the story more than once before — simply because it made real, emotionally, the way being in love transforms not only one’s view of the love-object, but also of oneself and of the whole world. To the person in love, the whole world seems to come into a brighter and clearer focus, and inspires a sense of omni-competence: Anything I didn’t do before, out of laziness or lack of motivation, I am now able to do, and want to do.

Chesterton does not theologize this passage, but I can’t help myself. St. John tells us that “God is love” — and is there not, in His attitude toward His creatures, the same sort of amour fou that the young man is possessed by in the story? And isn’t mysticism nothing but a glimpse, an inkling, a reflection, of precisely that sort of love? The perspective love brings is more powerful than that of pure reason. This is why many people over the past couple of centuries have objected to the word “Logos” to characterize God, and sought to de-Hellenize theology — purify it of Greek philosophical concepts — to get rid of the word. They intuit, correctly, that God is not “Word” in the sense of Professor Dryasdust and the cold syllogisms of purely human reason; they get the sense, in reading the works of too many theologians, that the latter have set many all-too-human limits on God. (This can be expressed as: “God is capable of more things than the volumes of Aquinas, Calvin, Barth, and the canon lawyers of various denominations might be willing to permit Him.” But who could put it better than Shakespeare: “There are more things in heaven and earth . . . than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”)

But “Logos” is quite appropriate if it’s understood in a broader way, to mean a reason deeper than ours, a reason not limited to the rules elaborated by our thinkers — a reason like that of the man in the story, with his “folly wiser than the world.” What looks like “folly to the Greeks,” a stumbling block to human reason, is, many of us believe, the Deepest Reason of all.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

The View From Above

Source:  "Looking Down from the Sky"; Engines of our Ingenuity, No. 1729
Keyword:  aloof, abstraction, reductionism

When human flight came to be, suddenly there was a new way of looking at the world.  Artists and then cameras took birds-eye views of the landscape. 

Two of the many people who talked about the new aerial perspective were Charles Lindbergh and the radical architect Le Corbusier. For Le Corbusier, the view from above made the earth below into an abstraction. In 1935, he wrote.
The bird's eye view ... now sees in substance what the mind formerly could only subjectively conceive.
He particularly disliked what he saw of cities from above. He went on to make this chilling remark:
Cities must be extricated from their misery, come what may. Whole quarters of them must be destroyed and new cities built.
Then we see the sterile geometrical city layouts he proposed as replacements. Just as Mussolini and Hitler took power, Le Corbusier was gravitating into a like-minded form of technocratic fascism.
The young Lindbergh was also accused of pro-fascist leanings. However, at the end of long and complex life, he was still struggling to get it right. In his last book, published after he died, he recalls visiting an island off the Brittany coast, in 1938. First, he seems to echo Le Corbusier. He says:
... when I was flying from America to Europe [I] looked down on the Atlantic and wondered what shapes and contours were masked by the sameness of its surface. ... the sea maintained its dignified aloofness.
But now, walking the beach below, his tone changes:
At the edge of [the sea], each fastly ebbing tide opened the ocean's threshold, let you step into a strange and foreign realm. Fish, camouflaged by weeds, hung motionless in crystal pools. Green, protoplasmic masses lay inertly on the stones. A tentacle from a small squid flashed out.
Lindbergh had been a barnstormer, a hero, an inventor, and a WW-II combat pilot. He'd had seen it all from above. An older Lindbergh understands how that elevated perspective can deceive any of us.
We engineers live by abstracting reality into manageable parcels. But we know nothing if we disconnect from the hard earth of messy detail. The "dignified aloofness" of the long view is lovely, but only because it is constructed from the rich organic clutter contained within it.
 Abstraction and reductionism often leaves out life.  It is important to live within the messiness of real life.  The faith calls us not simply to the mountaintop but also to the life below.

Monday, May 30, 2011

"I am looking forward to it."

Quote:  Billy Graham, 1983

“The moment you read in the paper that Billy Graham is dead, you will know that he is more alive than he has ever been; that he is in paradise.  And I am looking forward to it.”

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Setting the World on Fire

SOURCE:  "Fire" by Stanley Ott.  Building One Another, Vol 10, No 13.

Dear Friend,

During the wedding of Prince William and Catherine Middleton, the Bishop of London quoted Catherine of Siena as saying, “Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire.”

It is a wonderful word for not only the royal couple, but for every one of us.

God has made you as the unique and one and only you. At the same time our Lord never intended you to function solely in your own power. Setting the world on fire will only happen as we rely on the God who made us and who loves us to provide the flame!

As John the Baptist said, “I baptize you with water; but one who is more powerful than I is coming; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.” Luke 3:16*

So we know God intends you and me to be God’s vessels, open to and filled with God’s Spirit. Sometimes the vessels of our lives get pretty messed up. We are fragile and easily damaged.

Yet in the midst of the reality of our frailty is this huge word, “But we have this treasure in clay jars, so that it may be made clear that this extraordinary power belongs to God and does not come from us.” 2 Corinthians 4:7

A clay and fragile jar you may be, but you are the Lord’s jar, made to be God’s vessel. As the great words of the song “Spirit of the Living God,” say, “Melt me, mold me, fill me, use me.
Spirit of the living God, fall fresh on me.”

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Crucifix Requires No Glove


The crucifix requires no glove.
 --Emily Dickinson

(A grieving Emily Dickinson, near the end of her own life, in a five-word letter to a friend about the death of a mutual friend they had lost in his prime of life.)

Eating - Heaven and Hell


"The slogan of Hell: Eat or be eaten. The slogan of Heaven: Eat and be eaten."
-- W.H. Auden (A Certain World: A Commonplace Book)

Friday, April 08, 2011

The Windows by George Herber

KEYWORDS: preaching, scripture, bible, discipleship, ministry

The Windows
By George Herbert (1593–1633)
Lord, how can man preach thy eternal word?
    He is a brittle crazy glass;
Yet in thy temple thou dost him afford
    This glorious and transcendent place,
    To be a window, through thy grace.

But when thou dost anneal in glass thy story,
    Making thy life to shine within
The holy preachers, then the light and glory
    More reverend grows, and more doth win;
    Which else shows waterish, bleak, and thin.

Doctrine and life, colors and light, in one
    When they combine and mingle, bring
A strong regard and awe; but speech alone
    Doth vanish like a flaring thing,
    And in the ear, not conscience, ring.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

God Isn't Big Enough

SOURCE:  "God isn't Big Enough for Some People" by Umberto Eco.

"Human beings are religious animals. It is psychologically very hard to go through life without the justification, and the hope, provided by religion. You can see this in the positivist scientists of the 19th century."


"It is the role of religion to provide that justification. Religions are systems of belief that enable human beings to justify their existence and which reconcile us to death. We in Europe have faced a fading of organised religion in recent years. Faith in the Christian churches has been declining.

The ideologies such as communism that promised to supplant religion have failed in spectacular and very public fashion. So we're all still looking for something that will reconcile each of us to the inevitability of our own death.

G K Chesterton is often credited with observing: "When a man ceases to believe in God, he doesn't believe in nothing. He believes in anything." Whoever said it - he was right. We are supposed to live in a sceptical age. In fact, we live in an age of outrageous credulity.

The "death of God", or at least the dying of the Christian God, has been accompanied by the birth of a plethora of new idols. They have multiplied like bacteria on the corpse of the Christian Church -- from strange pagan cults and sects to the silly, sub-Christian superstitions of The Da Vinci Code"


"The pianist Arthur Rubinstein was once asked if he believed in God. He said: "No. I don't believe in God. I believe in something greater." Our culture suffers from the same inflationary tendency. The existing religions just aren't big enough: we demand something more from God than the existing depictions in the Christian faith can provide. So we revert to the occult. The so-called occult sciences do not ever reveal any genuine secret: they only promise that there is something secret that explains and justifies everything. The great advantage of this is that it allows each person to fill up the empty secret "container" with his or her own fears and hopes" 

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Self-righteousness of Political Violence

SOURCE:  "An ex-Weather Underground Radical on the Tucson Shootings and Political Violence" by Mark Rudd.  Washington Post. January 16, 2011.
KEYWORD:  Kingdom of Man, self-righteousness,

My willingness to endorse and engage in violence had something to do with an exaggerated sense of my own importance. I wanted to prove myself as a man - a motive exploited by all armies and terrorist groups. I wanted to be a true revolutionary like my guerrilla hero, Ernesto "Che" Guevara. I wanted the chant we used at demonstrations defending the Black Panthers to be more than just words: "The revolution has come/Time to pick up the gun!"

...Violent actors in this country - whether James Earl Ray, Timothy McVeigh or Scott Roeder, who in 2009 killed a Kansas abortion provider - are always armed not just with weapons, but with the conviction that their grievances demand satisfaction and their violence is righteous.

Wendy's Founder's Ingredients for Success

SOURCE:  "What Makes for Success" by Dave Thomas, Founder of Wendy's in Impiris, Vol 25, No 7. July 1996.

Dave Thomas' ingredients for success are divided into four basic groups:
  • Inward - these have to do with getting your own act together successfully.
    • Honesty - "It means stepping out and telling the whole truth.  Honesty means being sincere."
    • Faith - "Live your faith. Don't wear it on your sleeve; roll up both sleeves and do something about it."
    • Discipline - "Routine lies at the heart of discipline.  Routine is what keeps us focused on the main things in life...Discipline means keeping things and people in their proper places."
  • Outward - these are all about treating people right.
    • Caring - "Caring is feeling what another person feels.  Some people call it 'empathy'. Genuinely caring about people usually leads to success."
    • Teamwork - "Teamwork is the starting point for treating people right. Most people think that teamwork is only important when competing against other teams.  But competition is only part of the picture.  In most things we do in life, people have to work with rather than against each other to get something done.  Win-win situations and partnerships are the most important results of teamwork.  The best teams in the world are the ones that help people become better and achieve more than they ever thought they could on their own."
  • Upward - these are skills you need to know if you want to go beyond just doing an okay job and truly excel.
    • Motivation - "Know what motivates you, and prove to yourself that this motivation is honest and worthwhile.  But don't let too many different things motivate you, or you'll be tangled up in a maze of all kinds of conflicts.  Stay focused."
    • Creativity - "Creativity means change, but if you don't use common sense when you change things around, you are likely to end up farther behind than when you started.  Not everyone can be creative.  Accept it as a fact of life that if you aren't creative yourself your challenge is to learn how to work with people who are...What make people creative?  Sometimes, it's having your life shaken up."
    • Leadership - "What knocks off more leaders than anything else is failing to practice what they preach.  Of all the things leaders are supposed to do, nothing is more important than setting a good example."
  • Onward - these are attitudes you need to have in order to put yourself second and other people first.
    • Responsibility - "Mature leadership means realizing that no single person can be responsible for everything.  You can't be successful if you are stumbling around trying to carry the whole world on your shoulders.  Responsible people refuse to take shortcuts, even though they are almost always available.  They make sure that others with duties act responsibly, too.  And they use whatever recognition or honor they may have earned not to further their own ends but on behalf of good causes.  Instead of stealing the limelight, they allow it to shine on a good cause."
    • Courage - "We tend to make courage too dramatic.  Courage is often doing something simple, unpleasant, or boring again and again until we get it down pat."
    • Generosity -"You have to give of yourself, not just of your wallet."

Saturday, January 08, 2011

Blessed to be a Blessing

SOURCE:  "Ted Williams: My Time With the Homeless Man With the Golden Voice" by Mansfield Frazier.  Daily Beast, January 7, 2011.
KEYWORDS:  redemption, blessed, blessing, calling, freedom

I met Ted Williams, the homeless man with the golden voice who became a viral sensation, in a high-class dope den just before his descent into the world of addiction...

I was already deeply embedded in the "street life" at the time, and his presence at the after-hours joint we met at portended bad things to come for him. This was not his environs. The place was a high-class dope den and crack was in its heyday. Few people had seriously attempted to stop abusing it at this point, so even fewer were aware of its ironclad addictive powers—how hard it was for some to quit...

However, for this tale to have a happy ending Williams has to stay straight once he's got two dollars above bus fare jingling in his jeans pockets—no mean feat once someone has been bitten as hard as he. What's the old joke, "I can quit [insert whatever your drug of choice in here] anytime I want. I've done it dozens of times." I certainly don't wish the brother ill, but (for his own good) he bears close watching for awhile. Believe me, nothing on God's green earth is as empty as a junkie's promise...

[One lawyer that I knew] had been clean for close to a decade, living in an upscale community, with a beautiful wife and two adopted kids. "One day I was driving home after leaving court and the car just started driving itself," he now laughs. "It went straight to the dope house." Within six months he was flat broke and on the verge of being disbarred. After two years he again has it back together, but he now knows where he made his mistake. 

"I didn't give anything back when I got my own life together … I didn't go into the jails, into prisons and halfway houses and try to take someone under my wing. I didn't join Narcotics Anonymous, I didn't try to mentor anyone."

...He might not know this yet—but I, along with many others who have been lost souls do know it—his success ultimately depends on his willingness to give something back; to use this second chance to not only get his own life together, but to unselfishly reach back and help others, to try to assist them in climbing out of their lives despondency, degradation, and despair.

This is what we—ex-junkies, whoremongers, lawbreakers and hopeless reprobates—do … this is how we stay straight...