What You Learn by Living (sometimes)

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ACT3 Memphis

November 30, 2019
John W. Sewell

1. Like Christopher Columbus, what we find may be more important than what we were looking for.
2. Whatever is worth doing is worth doing poorly.
3. Dealing with matters of power and faith is like driving a car on ice. Doing what comes naturally, is almost always not the thing to do.
4. Anything worth doing is worth doing poorly
5. Salvation is a gift requiring a response.
6. The Christian life is like driving a car on ice. The automatic non-thinking reaction is not the thing to do.
7. Dissecting a frog is instructive but afterward it will not hop!
8. In matters of faith and nutrition, you are what you eat.
9. Ministry is like being pecked to death by a flock of small ducks
10. Every expression of Christianity has an inner inarticulate essence and a cultural manifestation. – Rev Stephen Parsons
11. Don’t collect so much clutter that you will be relieved to see your house catch fire. – Wendell Berry
12. If you want a huge funeral die young and tragically. If you live to old and it rains there will be nobody there.

In hope, in spite of the facts.

John Sewell+

When Reason Sleeps, Monsters Are Born.

Goya

“When Reason Sleeps, Monsters are Born” – Francisco Goya

Domestic pig (Sus scrofa f. domestica) and Ralf-P. Bergemann during a grunting competition between pig and man, at the Kappeler Pig races, Bergemann is the master of grunting, Kappel, Bavaria,Germany

“Twelve voices were shouting in anger, and they were all alike. No question, now, what had happened to the faces of the pigs. The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which.”
― George Orwell, Animal Farm

“Country over Court”

Who knew?

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Robert Byrd, Late Senator of West Virginia

After the debacle  of the Supreme Court hearings in 1991.  Senator Byrd said that he had supported Later Justice Thomas until after the testimony of Anita Hill.  After hearing the debacle of reopened testimony,  Senator Byrd said,

“Sometimes we must choose country over court.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Quote

“A person, whether human or divine, cannot be known — as a person rather than an image except by immediate presence. If we want to project an image, either of Christians or the Church, we can do that by means of television, magazines, books, billboards, movies, bumper stickers, buttons, records, and posters. If we want people to know Christ, we must be there face-to-face, bearing Christ within us.”

Virginia Owens – “The Total Image or Selling Jesus in the Modern Age”

Self-limitation for the Sake of Others

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In the late 1970’s I attended a Symposium at Berea College in Berea, Kentucky.  It was titled, From Under Our Rubble, in response to a series of essays by Russian thinkers, From Under the Rubble, edited by Alexander Solzhenitsyn.  My wife and a friend, Mark Vaughn attended as the house-guests of Father Henry Parker, the Chaplain of Berea. It was a glittering assembly of thinkers.  Dr. Elton Trueblood, weighty friend of the Quakers was chaplain. The Right Reverend Stephen Neill, architect of the Church of South India preached.  The Rev. Father Ramzi Malek O.P. led prayer and taught of the soul. His brother, Charles Malek, was once President of the United Nations General Assembly.  One of the leaders of the Church of the Savior in Washington, D.C., whose name I cannot recall, spoke on ministry.  These stand out in my memory.  These men and women caught my imagination as speakers,  I knew Elton and Henry as friends.  Over forty years later,  I cannot calculate the influence they exerted on my Christian development.  I am grateful, simply grateful.  Mark and I have remained friends of soul all these decades and I am grateful beyond measure for his counsel and companionship on the way.

About thirty years ago,  I came across my first copy of From Under the Rubble in an antique mall in Birmingham AL.  I have had several copies since, usually they become gifts for others.  Among first rate essays, one of them has shaped me for the journey. It is Repentance and Self-limitation in the Life of Nations by Alexander Solzhenitsyn.  It was here that I first encountered the notion of “self-limitation.”  I rather like Rabbi Friedman’s term “self-regulation” better, but nevertheless, it was there that I began the contemplation that discovered Tzimtzum in mystical Judaism.

“After repentance, and once we renounce the use of force, self-limitation comes into its own as the most natural principle to live by. Repentance creates the atmosphere for self-limitation.” A page later he writes, “After the Western Idea of unlimited freedom, after the Marxist concept of freedom as acceptance of the yoke of necessity — here is the true Christian definition of freedom. Freedom is self-restriction! Restriction of the self for the sake of others.”

There you have it.  I have never been the same since that day.

 As the author points out, “once understood and adopted, this principle diverts us – as individuals, in all forms of association, societies and nations – from outward to inward development, thereby giving us greater spiritual depth.

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Faith from Under the Rubble – Uri Andreyev

I came across this painting on the internet this afternoon and its title prompted my detour through the 1970’s.  Memories are powerful, especially when they serve to keep us humble.   The day will come when people will scrap the graffiti of tribal war paint from the faces of our common humanity and discover again the face of the Son of God, hidden as always among us.

Until that day,  I live in hope, in spite of the facts.

John W. Sewell ©

Data is a Form of Substance Abuse

AA

For some time I have been struck by the marvels and perils of the Internet. There is an amazing amount of information out there. On a daily basis I feel not just bombarded with but torpedoed by data. There is simply not enough time to read everything that demands my attention. I feel more inadequate than ever. My late teacher, Edwin Friedman used to say, “That in the late Twentieth Century data was a form of substance abuse.” People are treating information like any other addictive substance. When anxiety rises anxiety is bound by looking for more data. We read data and momentarily feel ok. Soon anxiety rises and the cycle begins again.

Friedman also said that there was a desperate search for data and technique supporting the notion that if people just knew enough and had the right technique they could do anything. But that is not true. The organizing principle of Western culture is found, for good or ill, in Genesis chapter 3. Regardless of how much Eve and Adam. To overcome the gaps, between why and why not.

Since then, [an abandoned project] Mr. Eco’s enthusiasm for the marvels of the Internet has been somewhat tamed. Now he finds himself pressing for ways to teach young people how to control the flood of information available on it before it overwhelms them. ”The problem with the Internet is that it gives you everything, reliable material and crazy material,” he said. ”So the problem becomes, how do you discriminate? The function of memory is not only to preserve, but also to throw away. If you remembered everything from your entire life, you would be sick.”

He likes to compare the computer (he has eight) to the car (he has two): both are tools that people must first be taught how to use. ”We invented the car, and it made it easier for us to crash and die,” he said. ”If I gave a car to my grandfather, he would die in five minutes, while I have grown up slowly to accept speed.” A Lover of Literary Puzzles by CELESTINE BOHLEN Published: October 19, 2002 How does an existing organization get un-stuck? Professor Sherry Turkle at MIT, on the Technology Channel once said “It is not a question about what technology is doing for us but what technology is doing to us!” She goes on to say that the first thing that people used to look for was meaning but that is not longer the case. Now the first thing people look for is mechanism. Mechanism sounds suspiciously like technique fueled by data.

The Big Book of Alcoholics declares, those who will not recover are those who are “constitutionally incapable of being honest with themselves.”

Beware the god of False Hope

I have forgotten where I first read this,

people-jumping-off-cliff false hope

 “Sometimes I pray to the god of False Hope that his Love Brigade doesn’t draft me up for service, Again.”

How often have I been drafted by the brigade, willingly believing the propaganda of the quick fix, the effortless relationship and the inevitability of progress?  When I am unwilling to do the hard work or in case  of resurrection to have the work done to me, I am high-jacked, not just by the bad but often by the good rather than the best – Grant O Lord that I not “settle for” the first available, whatever that might be.

What I hope ALL Christians Learn by Following Jesus.

• The supernatural is real
• Take up Nondual thinking
• Thinking Systemically (Bowen Theory)
• To follow Jesus is to serve
• Difference between job and work
• Regardless of the event, first ask, “How is my functioning contributing
to this situation?”
• Suffering is the promise life always keeps
• God knows the outcome. God does not choose the outcome. That’s your
job.
• Judge not! I mean literally mean, Judge not at all.
• Become Biblically literate
• Journaling is essential if you mean to grow in soul.
• More Orthopraxy not more Orthodoxy
• Practice Constant Prayer (literally)
• Honesty is more important than religious talk
• Tithing as a way of life.
• It’s hard to go back to plowing when you just ate your ox!
• Faith not certainty