Category Archives: philosophy

Motives of Goodness


charity workers

Take a moment and think about your last choice to do the right thing. It have been an internal motivation, but dig a bit deeper. What is behind that? What worldview?

Oswald Chambers describes how our view of authority, obedience, and the human spirit work together.


There is nothing miraculous or mysterious about the things we can explain. We control what we are able to explain, consequently it is only natural to seek an explanation for everything. It is not natural to obey, yet it is not necessarily sinful to disobey. There can be no real disobedience, nor any moral virtue in obedience, unless a person recognizes the higher authority of the one giving the orders. If this recognition does not exist, even the one giving the orders may view the other person’s disobedience as freedom. If one rules another by saying, “You must do this,” and, “You will do that,” he breaks the human spirit, making it unfit for God. A person is simply a slave for obeying, unless behind his obedience is the recognition of a holy God.

Oswald Chambers (click here for his full article)

Perhaps you can take just a moment to think of God’s holiness. And think of why you obey. What supports that? And what can improve your practical ethics.

I’d love to hear your ideas.


Original Sin

How do you understand the notion of “Original Sin”?

If we suppose for just a few seconds, for argument’s sake, that the Garden of Eden story was left out of the Bible, what changes with some of our notions of Original Sin?

Thanks for your responses.

MLK: Love Your Enemies


Pastor, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.




The following is an excerpt of the last portion of Martin Luther King Jr.’s speech entitled,

Loving Your Enemies
November 17 1957

…And our civilization must discover that. Individuals must discover that as they deal with other individuals. There is a little tree planted on a little hill and on that tree hangs the most influential character that ever came in this world. But never feel that that tree is a meaningless drama that took place on the stages of history. Oh no, it is a telescope through which we look out into the long vista of eternity, and see the love of God breaking forth into time. It is an eternal reminder to a power-drunk generation that love is the only way. It is an eternal reminder to a generation depending on nuclear and atomic energy, a generation depending on physical violence, that love is the only creative, redemptive, transforming power in the universe.

So this morning, as I look into your eyes, and into the eyes of all of my brothers in Alabama and all over America and over the world, I say to you, “I love you. I would rather die than hate you.” And I’m foolish enough to believe that through the power of this love somewhere, men of the most recalcitrant bent will be transformed. And then we will be in God’s kingdom. We will be able to matriculate into the university
of eternal life because we had the power to love our enemies, to bless those persons that cursed us, to even decide to be good to those persons who hated us, and we even prayed for those persons who despitefully used us.

Oh God, help us in our lives and in all of our attitudes, to work out this controlling force of love, this controlling power that can solve every problem that we confront in all areas. Oh, we talk about politics; we talk about the problems facing our atomic civilization. Grant that all men will come together and discover that as we solve the crisis and solve these problems—the international problems, the problems of atomic energy, the problems of nuclear energy, and yes, even the race problem—let us join together in a great fellowship of love and bow down at the feet of Jesus. Give us this strong determination. In the name and spirit of this Christ, we pray. Amen.

[full speech here.]

Please leave your comments. Thank you.

The WHY questions…

It’s quite possible that my parents inadvertently trained my brain to be more philosophical then it might have been ordinarily.

I remember countless times after doing something naughty or foolish, my parents would ask me a daunting question “Why, did you do that?”

I’m not sure what kind of answers they were expecting. I would wonder why they would ask that.

Those answers were far beyond what my child brain could tackle.

Inwardly I would think, “HUH? Well, that’s a good question, I guess. I probably should have asked why to myself before I did it. It seemed like a good idea at the time. How should I know why I did it? Do they know why? If so, why don’t they just tell me? Will there be some kind of quiz later, or something? If they do know why, why did they looked so puzzled? And basically pissed off. Am I supposed to figure it out for them? …..ugh. But, now that I’m thinking of it, I do wonder why.”

I would usually answer, “I don’t know.” Deep inside I would wish and hope the scrutiny would not last too long. (It probably would lead to a “spanking” a.k.a. whoop the daylights out of me.) But, I also thought, if I did know, wouldn’t truthful answers incriminate me? What could I really come up with in all honesty, “because I wanted to,”?

Mainly through the sheer number of inquiries, I developed the feeling that the answer to “why” had importance. I started on a path toward “hack philosopher”…

“Why would people wish to put meat into ball shapes?”

“Why would chewing gum before supper truly ruin supper itself?”

“Why was, ‘because I said so’ considered an acceptable reason for adults to give me, but never good at all for me to reply to them?”

When troubles or suffering would come, I would instinctively ask “why”?

Maybe learning a lot of things would give me these sought for questions. I tried that a bit. (I still love roving around libraries on a quest of discovery.) After a good deal of learning, one day it came to me:

“Almost all the really crucial questions that ask ‘why’ have quite unsatisfactory answers.”

Or, the answers get debated widely, and are rarely agreed on. Or, the “answers” have the kind of complexities that don’t make one feel better about things. At all.

All this preparatory ‘why’ work…for what? Zip. More or less.

Instead of those sorts of questions, I moved on. “What does asking why tell us about us, and why we should want to know in the first place?” That seems like a much bigger question, with the kind of answer that will make a difference.

We want things to make sense. We want purpose and something to believe in that won’t let us down. We want to count on something. Will a concrete answer provide this? It seems most concrete answers only produce more questions. Of course, I was only satiated with pat answers for a short time.  (I do believe I was also trained to understand that challenging  answers was either a lack of faith, or a flaw in character.)

It’s been a new path for me to have a certain serenity that understanding may begin when the intricacies that the why questions remain in creative tension with discovery and mystery.

And so “why mystery?”

For me, it’s about knowing things in terms of relationship, not facts. The facts can be manipulated, massaged, or up for grabs. But, true trust, based on an ongoing and lavish love, surmounts what facts never satisfy.

God is why.

Leave a comment…

otium sanctum means…

(photo: Thomas Merton)

A friend’s comment spoke volumes to me, so I wanted to devote a post on the idea.

“The key to spiritual growth is otium sanctum, so hard to trust in our world that values efficiency and quick results.” -Doug Jackson (Excerpt of his comment on the previous post.)

On page 85 in his book, Spiritual Direction and Meditation, Thomas Merton explains otium sanctum:

Now the Fathers of the Church well understood the importance of a certain “holy leisure”  [or] “otium sanctum.” We cannot give ourselves to spiritual things if we are always swept off our feet by a multitude of external activities. Business is not the supreme virtue, and sanctity is not measured by the amount of work we accomplish. Perfection is found in the purity of our love for God, and there is plenty of  time for it to mature.

Otium Sanctum is part of the not doing– It’s the “hard work” of that. The notion is paradoxical certainly, but bluntly revelatory.

How do you “not do” in your life, or for God which brings you to greater maturity?

Do you think God does or does not function with otium sanctum?

If so, how?

Thanks for your participation on this one.

Learning to Swim

photo by stephen jones (steve p2008 -Flickr)

I couldn’t swim until I was 11 years old, and even then, it was a pretty panicky endeavor.

Today I taught both of my kids (ages 7.5 and 10) how to swim in about 3 hours.

Both were super afraid of being in the deep section when we started. Because they trusted me; it worked. I gave them pushes to the side, and skill tips, and once the fear was nearly gone, they could do it.

Much has to do with trusting that one is fairly buoyant in the water. Thrashing is not helpful, tense muscles tend to sink. For my son, who was quite scared, I told swim, “swim gently.” Something clicked. He saw/experienced that when taking his time, he could maneuver and stay afloat. The terror of sinking like a rock eased away. He probably jumped in the deep end to swim about 150 times after that.

For my daughter, distracting her with techniques, like a flutter kick and slicing arms through the water, distracted her from her over-thinking. The paralyzing fright of trying something new and “dangerous” settled out, and made way for real progress. I would hold her under her belly, to qualm her fears, and then I’d take her into deeper water so she wouldn’t stunt her learning by cutting it short: standing up each time she wasn’t sure of things, or when she felt scared–which, at the start, was about every 4 seconds. Once she saw how far she could go, by obeying my instructions, she realized she was ALREADY swimming. Then the fear (well, more the 50% of it) subsided. She got far more comfortable in the water.

It’s like that in life too, isn’t it. Much of what we think is beyond us, or too scary is part of how we’ve let our fears and false notions get in the way. We all must learn to float and not fight as God teaches us how to manage deeper water. Otherwise we are trapped in the kiddie pool.

How old were you when you learned to swim? Or do you have Aquaphobia a.k.a fear of water?

In what ways, to you, is the art and skill of swimming related to growth, or your own personal journey?

Any other thoughts?


I’m looking for a pop up camper… keep your eyes peeled.

Do spirituality/theology and Humor go well together?

Tangled is good: Twister®! (photo: LisaDeLay ©2010)

Spirituality/theology AND humor ≠ peanut butter and jelly?

Peas and carrots?

or More like jelly and mayo?

Or hair and cheesesteak?

Are people who study God (theologians) humorous as much as they are serious?

In my case, yes.

But does that gel? I’m talking like jell-o giggler, gel? Really nicely, with fun and good flavor, and joint protection.

Okay, I’m not paid to teach theology, not yet anyway, so I’m not a pro. Several hundred hours of study should count for something though.

But, I’ve noticed something: If someone tends to take their studies seriously, and their profession seriously, sometimes they lose their sense of humor. It’s not that they can’t be witty on occasion. But I’ve noticed the “humor” can be more sarcastic than uproarious. Theology can be rather dry… but not as in dry humor.

It’s beginning to bother me some, because of the sense that one “has to” pick one way or the other.

• Either you get your respect and admiration seriously honing your forte and thoughts of God, or you pick some sort of madcap way and get sort of dismissed as a lightweight.

Well, rubbish to that.

It shouldn’t be so.

It is a genius blend to be genuinely comical and also thoroughly studied on the important matters of living in this world with a firm consideration of the Divine as the center of it.

It might look like I’m putting it in my mouth, but I have to put my foot in both camps.

So, I’m putting my readers on notice. (Don’t think: Wittenberg Door “notice”. Think: dry erase board.) As anyone knows, straddling can lead to a good hard thwack in the center. I realize this is RISKY. Those of you that know me personally realize this co-mingled vantage point is from where I operate. Some of you may just…not “get it”.

Stay with me here.

I’m not sure where we got the idea that spirituality must be flaky or humorless. Sobriety is one thing, but cheerless? Parish the thought.

If you are new here, welcome. I invite you to what is an engaging game of Twister®, if you will. Here I will not kowtow to stern conventions of how we must study and know God, and our selves, as spiritual creatures. And no, I’m not a witch. Don’t be so stocked, or “freaked” in any way. (Plus, I weigh more than a duck…)

Isn’t God young? It is us who have gotten old and crotchety. Severe or joyless. Being truly alive doesn’t look much like that.

What do you think…?

Have you lost your sense of humor?

Do you find it doesn’t mesh with diligently following God or knowing him well?

Are worship/awe and fun mutually exclusive within spirituality?

Any thing you’d like to say on the matter?

Let’s hear it –