Monday, March 31, 2014

When Calls the Heart

I truly enjoyed the series “When Calls the Heart” on Hallmark Chanel with 12 hourly segment each week. 

The movie is slightly based on the book with the same name by Jeanette Oke, a Canadian Christian writer.  I read the original story as well and discovered it quite different from the movie. 

The series describes the life of a young woman, Elizabeth Thatcher, who follows her dream to the Canadian West.  She is deeply moved by her faith as she is confronted with the pioneering life and encounters many problems many of us face: loneliness, misunderstanding, disappointment, rejection and grief but her faith, perseverance and commitment sustain her and show her the value of listening to God and obeying His voice.

Today, I finally understood why I was so moved by the story.  It reminded me in many ways of my own life.  I had been restless and searching for more than seven years when I got my call from God.  Finally, at the beginning of 1973 I met a lady from the Unification Church who introduced me to the study of the Divine Principle.  I wrote once before of my experience of coming to America.

Following this call from God, I experienced all the same emotions Elizabeth was faced with.  I didn’t go to the Canadian Wilderness, but rather became a pioneer to experience people and situations in this country with different belief systems, diverse backgrounds, and most of all unusual behaviors which challenged my own faith in humanity.  Through it all I have come to depend more on my internal guidance and trust in God.

While watching the movie series and also reading the book and other writings of Jeanette Oke, I learned to appreciate her approach of always going back to the basics: prayer and study of the word.  Our faith becomes often weak, and we forget who is really directing our lives.

“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”
~ Hebrews 11:1

What I liked most about the show is that it allowed things to happen naturally without forcing them.  It permits God to work in our lives when we agree to the truth and be agreeable with others.  I refer here to the way the relationship between Jack and Elizabeth developed.  Both of them in their own way were resolved to not marry.  Jack was honor-bound to his job as a Mountie with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, while Elizabeth didn’t want to marry a Western Canadian and wanted to pursue her courier as a teacher.  Except the Lord had different plans for both of them, and they finally surrendered to the love they felt for each other.
“Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.”
~ Matthew 5:16

I am deeply grateful to God for allowing me to delight in a modern-day show, using it to renewing my faith and discovering the burning light within me.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Chronos Versus Kairos

Time is a dimension in which events can be ordered from the past through the present into the future, and also the measure of durations of events and the intervals between them.

The ancient Greeks had two words for time.  The first was chronos, which we still use in words like chronological and anachronism, and kairos was the other.  Chronos refers to clock time – time that can be measured – seconds, minutes, hours, years. 

Where chronos is quantitative and exact, kairos is qualitative and expansive. It measures moments, not seconds. Further, it refers to the right moment, the opportune moment; the perfect moment. The world takes a breath, and in the pause before it exhales, fates can be changed.

“The Greeks had two words for time: chronos and kairos.  Kairos is not measurable, it is ontological.  In kairos we are, we are fully in isness… fully, wholly, positively.  Kairos can sometimes enter, penetrate, break through kairos: the child at play, the painter at his easel, the saint at prayer, friends around the dinner table, a mother reaching out her arms for her newborn baby, are in kairos.”
~ Madeleine L’Engle – A Circle of Quiet
Chronological time does not allow us to get lost in the moment.  We are always aware of the clock and that time is moving on.  Our society is very chronos-oriented; we are overly scheduled, trying to cramp in more and more in a day, in a minute, etc.  Being so time-bound, we are victims of the clock.

 “and a time to every purpose under the heaven:
A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted…”
~ Ecclesiastes 3

Fortunately, we are discovering more and more the other aspect of time: kairos allows us to get lost in the moment, truly experiencing quality time over quantity. Kairos is expansive, full of possibility, and we can enjoy play, passion and the experience itself.  We can lose our self-consciousness, doubts and fears.  Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi calls it being in the “flow.”  In that synchronicity we can experience a higher dimension or the spiritual reality and ultimately unite with our Creator, the Heavenly Parents.

Time is too slow for those who wait, too swift for those who fear, too long for those who grieve, too short for those who rejoice, but for those who love, time is eternity.
Henry van Dyke (1852-1933), American author, educator, and clergyman

I was inspired to write this article by reading a book "The Art of the Possible” by Alexandra Stoddard.  She writes therein about the path from perfectionism to balance and freedom.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Who is Brer Rabbit?

We all may have heard of Bugs Bunny but only the older folks among us may remember stories of Brer Rabbit.  Brer Rabbit is a character in folk tales of African-American and Native American origin.  He is also known as the “trickster” character because he can even outsmart the other characters in the stories.  

In folklore, the animal trickster represents an extreme form of behavior which people may be forced to use in extreme circumstances in order to survive.

Brer Rabbit is representative of how a smaller, weaker, but cleverer force can overcome a larger, stronger, but less clever power. He continually outsmarts his bigger animal rivals, Brer Fox, Brer Wolf, and Brer Bear.

Author Joel Chandler Harris used and popularized these characters in his series of Uncle Remus tales. One of the most well-known Brer Rabbit tales is a story of Brer Rabbit and the Tar Baby. Brer Fox has been trying and trying to trap the rabbit and finally discovers a way to do it. He sets up a tar “baby,” and when Brer Rabbit encounters it, mayhem ensues.

Br’er Rabbit and the Tar Baby

The rabbit becomes stuck to the tar baby and the more he fights against it, the more stuck he becomes—that alone could be a lesson for readers. But it doesn’t stop there. Brer Rabbit manages to trick the fox into throwing him into a briar patch. It sounds like a horrible punishment—at least that’s what we think at first. But, the rabbit has lived his life in the briar patch, so he easily works his way free.

Though the Uncle Remus stories were written in the late 1800s, the stories of the “trickster” rabbit go back centuries in time and will be passed along for centuries more. Brer Rabbit will continue to triumph and get into and out of sticky situations by outsmarting his foes.

Storyteller Diane Ferlatte/ Brer Rabbit's Dance
"They cannot distinguish even between Negro demonstrators and negro spectators.”
~ Wyatt Walker

I read about the “tricks” of Brer Rabbit in a book called David and Goliath by Malcolm Gladwell.  Mr. Gladwell writes about ‘Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants.’  In his book, Malcolm goes into a lengthy account of the Civil Rights Movement and how in 1963, Dr. Martin Luther King and Wyatt Walker together used the “Brer Rabbit” ideas to their advantage.  E.G., when they organized street protests, they waited until the early evening when the black residents were walking home from work.  They became onlookers and were mistaken for part of the demonstrations, therefore increasing their numbers.

"We need to remember that our definitions of what is right are, as often as not, simply the way that people in positions of privilege close the door on those at the bottom of the pile."
~ Malcolm Gladwell

Mr. Gladwell makes his point well: Underdogs have to use whatever they've got.

I was very moved by the book because in one way or another we all feel like underdogs at times.  Malcolm’s referrals to the bible reminded me that all throughout human history God has been on the side of the underprivileged; this is the history of restoration.  Because of the Fall of Man, man(kind) lost his proper position and became the underdog.  Once we recognize this weakness, it can become our strength, with God on our side.

If you like to read some more Brer Rabbits stories, here are the links: A Brer Rabbit Story
The Origins Of The Br’erRabbit Stories

Monday, March 10, 2014

Danger of Perfectionism

There is a common saying that nobody is perfect, yet that does not keep some of us from trying.  In general, there is nothing wrong with doing our best and excelling, even competing with others for the first spot. 

Many Christians try to follow Jesus and his words from the “Sermon on the Mount:” 
“Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
~ Matthew 5:48

What is the meaning of this perfection which Jesus suggested?

·       According to the dictionary, perfection means: the condition, state, or quality of being free or as free as possible from all flaws or defects.

·       The word "perfection" derives from the Latin "perfectio", and "perfect" — from "perfectus." These expressions in turn come from "perficio" — "to finish", "to bring to an end."

·       The philosopher Aristotle defines perfection as:

1. which is complete — which contains all the requisite parts;
2. which is so good that nothing of the kind could be better;
3. which has attained its purpose.

Once we understand what our human purpose (human beings are created to be the center of harmony of the whole cosmos) is, I don’t see it as an impossibility of reaching that perfect state.

“Ring the bells that still can ring
 Forget your perfect offering.
 There is a crack in everything,
 That's how the light gets in.”
 ~Leonard Cohen, Canadian musician, poet and novelist

Today, more than ever before, we have learned about spiritual principles like The Law of Attraction.  We understand that it has the same or even greater consequences than physical laws such as the Law of Gravity.

God gave us spiritual laws to direct us on our journey here on earth so that we have some guidelines for our lives.  Traditionally, religions were the source of these principles, since they dealt with spiritual matters.  Unfortunately, there are so many religions and so many different ways to present these principles that people often get confused, and in the worst way, throw out all of these instructions.

“Many people think of perfectionism as striving to be your best, but it is not about self-improvement; it's about earning approval and acceptance.”
~ Brene Brown, American scholar, author, public speaker on vulnerability.

There is a trend toward perfectionism though which is downright unhealthy and causes mental illness.

Extreme perfectionism:

·       Causes anxiety

·       Causes worry
      ·       Causes arrogance

·       Shuts out emotions

·       Creates unrealistic expectations

·       Creates paralysis by analysis

·       Avoids suffering

·       Tries to keep control

·       Tries to do everything by oneself without help from others
I am sure we could add many more symptoms of extreme perfectionism which can be dangerous for lives. 

"Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.” 
~ Antoine de Saint-ExupĂ©ry, 1900-1944  French writer and aviator
I was reading a book In Pursuit of Perfect by Tal Ben-Shahar who uses his observations to shed more light on reaching happiness instead of perfection.  Tal is an optimistic force in bringing positive psychology to the general public.  Positive psychology focuses on happiness, self-esteem, optimism, and joy.  Among Mr. Ben-Shahar’s attention I like the one on being grateful the most.  Gratitude creates a base for happiness and opens a passage to communicate with the Divine, our Heavenly Parents.

Monday, March 3, 2014

After the Winter

Last week, when the snow finally melted, I was walking in the back yard.  I was watching my step since it was still very muddy back there.  Looking down, I discovered a small twig which I recognized:
it had fallen off my hands last fall after I had cut the forsythia bush in the front yard.  I picked it up and looked at it more closely; since I saw some swollen buds on it, I decided to take it inside and put it into water. 

Within a few days I could see that the buds had grown and within a week the yellow flowers came out. 

“In the midst of winter, I found there was, within me, an invincible summer.”
~ Albert Camus, French author and poet

That is totally amazing to me, since it had been cut off from the bush for more than five months.  Since the twig was covered with snow it was kept moist and the cold just kept it dormant until I brought it inside.  The life force in that branch was still alive. 

I call this my little miracle.
That's what the rest of the bush looks like as of today.